Lad of Moss

By SDerkins (c) 2003

Disclaimers: This story is my own original work and may not be reproduced, either electronically or in print except for personal use. All disclaimers, title, author, and copyright must remain on the copy.

Content Warnings: The story includes scenes of warfare, violence, sexual content, and other themes of an adult nature. 1If you are underage, living in a place that finds this story unacceptable for viewing, or easily offended, please find something else to read.

Misc Disclaimers: This story was inspired by an ancestor of mine who had been taken as a prisoner in the Battle of Dunbar in 1650 Scotland. Although my characters are totally invented by my Muse, I feel compelled to state that any resemblance to persons either living or dead is purely by accident. Real Characters of the time will be followed by an asterisk (*) the first time mentioned. And PLEASE, I don't hate the British! Most of my ancestors came from England, Ireland, and Scotland. I have a British friend I adore, so don't send me hate mail just because my character hates them. I am not putting them down, just trying to follow the history for the time period.

Author's Note: I am a VERY bad girl. In my story, I wrote that the Colonials had little love of the American Indians in 1652, but in a case of too little too late, I found that they got along well with them for almost 50 years, which would be about 1670. In fact, they even had laws to protect the Indians from being cheated in business deals. It wasn't until later that relations between cultures grew tense. (Hanging head in shame) I offer my humblest apologies to the readers.

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(June 1650)

Alexia felt only numbness as she placed the last fist full of earth over the mass grave. The young girl didn't feel the chill of the coming eve nor the wounds she had received at the hands of the cursed English raiders. In shock, she could only stare at the dark soil that hid what had once been her family.

There was no one to comfort her. No priest spoke over their grave. No neighbor or militia came to investigate the black smoke that was still smoldering from the ruins of their tiny cottage. The nearest sheriff was too far away to be of any use. In these troubled times, many stayed close to home. Those who did travel were either soldiers or thieves.

Alexia's family lived near the English border. Her father had refused to listen to the warnings of his neighbors, stubbornly staying on the land his family had tenanted for generations. Now he laid dead, next to his wife and two sons. The tall lass wished she could have joined them.

She rubbed her bruised arms and pushed away the events of earlier that day from her mind. Echoes of the horrified screams of her family, the pain, the smell of smoke, and the laughter of the men who did this to them. They had taken her innocence prior to beating her. Assuming she'd be dead before nightfall, they left her battered body on the cold soil outside their cottage and rode away. The farmer's daughter had awoken to the destruction and horror. Her family slaughtered, her home gone, Alexia went through the motions to lay her family to rest as best she could, regretting that she couldn't properly shrive them.

The surviving daughter felt her chin tremble as a sob threatened to burst from inside of her. Biting it back, she turned from the grave and strode away.

Alexia shivered pitifully against the base of a tree. Night had fallen, and with it came a light drizzle. Without a cloak, all she could do was cover her body in fallen leaves as a makeshift blanket. Hunger gnawed at her belly, reminding her that she hadn't eaten in three days. What land that hadn't been burned by the army had been picked clean by hungry peasants. Nothing remained except marshland and moss. Food was scarce. English raiders had been stealing flocks and burning fields. She sighed and pushed aside long red hair that dangled in her eyes.

Maybe she'd reach the old castle tomorrow.

Dawn came, raising the temperatures slightly and causing fog. Still chilled in her bed of leaves, she hesitated to rise and lose what little warmth it provided. Alexia pulled her torn collar closer around her neck and shifted nearer to the tree. She decided to remain where she was until the sun rose further. Then a sound caught her ears. Something rustling in the distance.

Startled, she sat up quickly, looking frantically around her. What was it? Her ears strained in the morning silence, aware that even the birds did not sing. Another sound came from her right. A thump. Then the sounds of men's voices speaking in excited softness.

Terrified that it might be raiders, Alexia scrambled to the bushes nearby and hid in their shadows. The voices came closer. She held her breath in fear, praying to the Holy Mother that she would not be discovered. She peered through the leaves of her hiding place and watched as a young man burst through the brush, followed by two men.

His head was bleeding and he stumbled over a tree root in his panic. The two men quickly caught him and began beating him. 'Thieves' Alexia thought. The young man couldn't be more than fourteen, but he fought bravely. In spite of being pummeled by two men, he managed to pull a small knife from his belt and wound one of his assailants. Bellowing in pain, the thief pulled his arm back protectively and kicked at the youngster on the ground.

Something snapped inside of Alexia. Anger at their violence against a fellow Scot left her filled with cold fury. Weren't the cursed English killing enough of them? She grabbed a stout branch from the ground and lifted it high as a primal scream tore from her throat. Startled, the thieves ducked instinctively. The tall girl swung her weapon and caught one thief along his ear. He slumped to the ground.

Inspired by her attack, the young man leapt into the fray with new vigor. He grabbed the other attacker by his sleeve and plunged his knife into his belly. One dead, the other one stunned, he pinned down the fallen man and began beating him senseless with his fists.

Alexia watched as the youth spent his fury on the half-dead man. Panting in exhaustion, he wobbled to his feet and faced her. They stared at one another warily for a moment, then he grinned.

"Ye be a tall lass and my savior. I thank ye," he said with a thick brogue. He clearly wasn't a borderer. "I'm Donald Steward, and yer name lass?"

"Alexia Browne," she said shyly.

"A bonnie name. Why are ye alone lass? Is yer family nearby?"

"Nay, they were killed not three days ago by English raiders. I'm going to a village near Old Caerlaverock Castle. I'm hoping to find some of my mam's kin there, otherwise I'm alone in this world," she murmured sadly.

Donald heaved a great sigh. How did her tell the girl she'd be turned away? Orphans were common, and the land was poor. The girl was dressed in naught but rags and from the looks of her, ruined by the raiders. Even if she found kin, what family would take in a soiled dove? Perhaps if she lied and claimed to be a widow…but he looked at the gawky tall redhead with a jaundiced eye and knew her looks would make her story doubtful.

Barely into her womanhood, perhaps his own age, the lass looked more boy than woman. Tall, big boned, and plain-faced as a donkey, she had little beauty. The girl was sturdily made, obviously raised on a farm. Her arms and shoulders were powerfully built and her hands callused. Even her voice sounded rough, like a boy hitting his manhood. An idea suddenly came upon him.

"Lass, hae ye any skills other than housewifery?" he asked.

The girl shrugged. Her father had worked her as hard as her brothers. The land was poor and the work was much. She told Donald this.

"Hmm, perhaps I hae an idea. To be blunt wi ye, ye hae little hope of finding shelter in the village. What they need is men for Leslie's army," Donald kicked the beaten thief, "If ye took his clothing and dressed as a man, ye might find work. Maybe the villagers will hire ye, or perhaps ye can find employment wi' the army as a cook. Ye ken?"

Alexia felt her stomach tighten. She understood. Facing the reality that as a woman to make a way in this world was with marriage or as a whore. Without a dowry nor her virginity, a decent marriage was unlikely. As for her other option, she shuddered in fear.

"Do ye think I could pass, Master Steward?" she asked nervously.

"Aye, if ye shear yer locks and were careful. At least for a few years. After that…" he shrugged. She agreed and together, they stripped the thief from his clothing. She wrinkled her nose at their odor.

"I'll not don them until they are rinsed," Alexia vowed. There was a stream nearby. She submerged the rough clothing into the icy water and cleansed them as best she could without soap. She wrung them out and hung them over a long branch in order to carry them over her shoulder.

"They can dry as we walk Donald Steward. When we near the village, I'll change."

The young man nodded before handing her a leather pouch and dropping a blue hat onto her head.

"The thief's bag. I think ye earned what little possessions he carried."

She inspected the pouch, finding a fire-starting flint, a crude knife, and a few copper coins. Alexia handed the knife to Donald and asked him to cut her hair. He hacked it away, leaving it shoulder length. A piece of cord held it in a simple tail. She thanked the youth and they started their journey.

The smell of smoke warned them of people nearby. Leaving the road, she modestly stood behind a bush and donned the damp clothing. It was slightly big on her, but it hid what few curves she possessed. The heavy material was also much warmer than her old clothing. She bundled her torn dress and buried it under a bush. Picking up the pouch, she slung it across her chest. She stepped out into the open for Donald's inspection.

He nodded. She looked like a gangly youth. They had already discussed her new name, Alexander, in case she accidentally tried to give her true name. Donald gave her a few pointers and hoped it would be enough.

They walked further and spotted the village that sat near the ruined Caerlaverock Castle. It had been taken in 1640 by The Covenanters and partially dismantled. The once proud keep sat eerily upon the loch. Alexia felt a shiver along her spine at its image and continued to the small village. She and Donald made inquiries, and to their disappointment, no employment was available. The men who had joined Leslie's army had already left the burgh. Many advised them to go west, towards the next largest community.

Spending the few coins they had, bought simple food supplies and headed out of the village. Many of the people there had a hungry look, and the couple feared being robbed if they stayed overnight.

Agreeing in whispers that they might be followed, they left the road and headed directly north. It wasn't where they were advised to go, but the forest and the glens were safer than the roads. Donald wanted to head away from the border, not travel along it, Alexia agreed. Stopping to camp an hour before nightfall, Donald took a piece of string and disappeared. He returned shortly.

"What are ye up to Donald Steward?" Alexia asked.

"Oh, just a bit of hunting my friend. I set a trap."

"Donald, that's poaching! If we're caught-"

"We won't be," he assured her. "Besides, I dinna think the food we bought will last our journey. I, for one, dinna intend to travel on an empty belly." A sudden squeal from nearby caused the young man to grin. "Care for some rabbit?"

The thought of a roasted hare made her mouth water. It had been a long time since she last ate meat. Seeing the hungry look in her eyes, he grinned wider and went into the forest for his prize. Alexia quickly assembled kindling for a fire. Once it burned enough to go unsupervised, she began hunting for larger pieces of wood to burn and form a spit. Donald returned with a gutted rabbit, ready for cooking. Spitting it neatly, he placed it between two forked sticks.

Taking two potatoes from their sack, she rinsed them then sliced a notch from each. Placing them on hot stones to bake, she would catchdrippings from the rabbit and flavor the roots. She wished she had a fry pan. Alexia would have fried the rabbit and saved the drippings to cook onions and potatoes in, then added bits of their vegetables. The idea of stovies made her hungrier. Her mother made the best…She quickly pushed aside the memory, unwilling to weep once more.

'I'm pretending to be a man, so act like it. Don't snivel at every little thing!'' she scolded herself.

The two travelers chatted while their meal cooked. Donald was also an orphan. His father had died of a fever, quickly followed by his second wife. Donald had an infant brother, whom he had given to a nursing woman. Without ties, he took to the road, working just to earn a place to sleep and a meal. He had no purpose in mind, but of late, Donald had been thinking.

"Ye ken, David Leslie* is looking for more men for his army," he told Alexia, "Word has it that Charles* {the second} signed a Covenant promising us more say in our country if we help him gain England's throne. We could finally get rid of these cursed English overlords and rule in our own right."

"And ye are telling me this because?" the redhead asked, seeing the hesitation on his face.

"Well, rumor is that there's a wee bit of trouble within the Council of State, and if the Scots strike whilst the iron is hot, we could easily defeat the English army. But tis just a rumor have ye." Donald glanced at his companion, hoping for a clue to her thoughts.

"Donald, are ye telling me we ought to join Leslie's army? Are ye forgetting I be a woman? What do I ken of warfare?" She threw her hands in the air, "Join them if ye wish, but leave yer high and mighty plans to yer fine self," She spat.

"Alexia," he said softly, leaning closer to her, "do ye plan on leaving yer family unavenged?Ye hae no clansmen to battle for ye. What do ye hae to cling to in this world but yer country and yer honor? I hate to be blunt wi' ye, but ye are no longer a virgin nor hae a dowry in order to wed. Not even the church would take ye now. Yer only choice is a short life as a whore or die in debtors prison. At least as a soldier, ye have a chance to avenge yer family. Kill a few bloody Englishmen and die honorably. If ye live, ye could take yer pay and start anew elsewhere, perhaps the colonies. What is the difference? Die quickly or linger in misery. The choice is yers. I am heading for the nearest post where I may sign on." Donald tossed the bones from his meal into the fire and rolled over.

Alexia stared at his back, her thoughts reeling. His words made sense, but could she get away with it? It was one thing to be disguised as a man to fool villagers, but to live inside a camp of men? Leaning against the base of a boulder, the young lass let her thoughts swirl as she drifted to sleep.

The next morning, neither of them spoke much. Alexia was content to give Donald the lead, meekly following. He kept up a brisk pace, only stopping to refill his water skin at a stream or to keep care of necessities of the body. Near dusk, they spotted a town on the horizon. They could easily reach it late the next morning. Donald spoke for the first time.

"Do ye want to stop here? I could set another snare. Tis likely be our last decent meal, one way or another. Hae ye thought on what I said?"

"Yes, and I've decided to join ye. Ye are right, my choices are few. I just hope I'm not discovered. If I am, I'll deny that ye ken my gender. I dinna want ye to be hanged next to me." Alexia assured him. He nodded.

Alexia set up a simple camp while Donald set his snare. Glancing into their canvas bag of food, she removed several onions and a few turnips. She would spit them along side whatever he snared.

He returned just before sunset, carrying a partridge. It wouldn't go far but it would be a welcomed treat. Changing her mind on what to cook, she took out some hardening bread and diced the onions. Donald finished plucking the bird and handed it over. She kept the liver and heart, chopping them fine and adding them to the bread and onions. Adding a bit of water and salt, she stuffed the bird.

"Tis unusual but I think it will be tasty," Donald commented.

"I wish we had herbs to add to it. My mother had a wee kitchen garden. She was forever snipping at some plant or another," she said mournfully as she cleaned out their only bowl.

Donald didn't know what to say to comfort his new friend. Reaching out, he gave her shoulder a soft squeeze. She turned her head away, but not before he saw the glimmer of tears brimming in her eyes. With a heavy sigh, he leaned back and allowed her time to regain her composure. He fed the fire a bit more then took a drink of tepid water from his skin.

Grimacing, he made a sound of disgust. Alexia chuckled in spite of her tears. "Put a bit of oatmeal in it. I'll take some of the foul taste away."

"T'will turn the water to sludge," he protested.

"Nay, not if ye don't slosh it about. T'will settle on the bottom. We did that with our water barrel in winter."

Donald raised a doubtful eyebrow but did as she suggested. After several minutes, he took a tentative sip. It tasted much better.

After eating their meal, they both settled down for an evening's rest.

The town of Dumfries was a large bustling community about eight miles north of the ruined castle. The travelers wandered into the market area. Donald, strolled about casually, since it wasn't his first time in a large town. Alexia, however, barely curbed the desire to cover her ears, unaccustomed to such noise. Her eyes took in the vast amounts of food, wares, and services available. Never had she seen so much in one place. Donald noticed several men dressed in worn uniforms and headed their way while his companion followed reluctantly.

He approached the men and politely addressed them. "Excuse me, but me and my friend here hae thought about joining Leslie's army. How would we go about doing this?"

The men looked at them warily. Most of the soldiers were not volunteers, but men who were pressed into the army by their lords. Very few joined on their own. The older private looked them over, not impressed in the least. The one who spoke to him was a lad of perhaps 15, not of large size. Probably a clerk's son. Peering past him, he took in the tall youth with red hair. Grunting to himself as he saw the boy wasn't even old enough to shave in spite of his height. Neither was destined to be rough soldiers but he knew Leslie would turn down no one if possible. Every warm body was needed.

"Follow me," he ordered.

The companions found themselves being introduced to an officer in a red uniform. With little fanfare, both signed their marks to the army's rolls. Passed to another soldier, they received their simple course uniforms and gear bags. They were gruffly told where to sleep and when to report for training come morning.


The two companions joined the other new arrivals at a field on the edge of the army camp. To Donald's eyes, the place seemed haphazard and unorganized. He was quite correct.

Word had reached the ears of the commanding officers that Counsel of State in England felt threatened by the Scots asking that Charles II become their new king. Fearing an invasion by the English would come sooner than they expected, the new recruits were being rushed through training. Leslie needed all the men that could be mustered as quickly as possible.

An officer in red approached them and pointed to several men, Alexia included, and had them step aside from the rest of the group. Privates handed them muskets and stepped back.

"Each of ye will each hae a few turns firing these weapons. Those with aptitude for them will be trained in firearms. Those with aptitude for pikes or swords in those weapons." He went on, explaining each step in loading the muskets. Alexia listened carefully, not wishing to make any mistakes.

Once each of them finished, they each stepped forward one at a time to shoot at a target about fifty feet away. The redhead was fourth in line. The first man lifted the heavy weapon and held it unsteadily. Upon firing it, Alexia nearly yelped girlishly at the roar of the rifle.

The man missed the target. The second boom of the weapon was less startling and Alexia listened to the advice given to the third man. He managed to hit the edge of the target, winning a grunt of approval from the officer. The girl stepped forward and lifted her weapon. Taking a deep breath, she glanced down the length of the weapon, then released the flint trigger.

The smell of powder and the noise caused her to nearly drop it, but she managed to keep it in her grip. A hardy slap to her shoulder by the officer caused her to stumble forward.

"Good shooting lad! Ye hit it dead center," he beamed. She grinned back at him and stepped aside for the next man. Alexia was allowed to fire her musket three times, and managed to hit near the center on each of the shots. Asked if she could ride a horse, the officer nodded and informed her that she was to be trained for the Dragoones, or the cavalry.

Many hours later, as she joined the others for mid-day meal, she found Donald.

"Which training will you enter?" he asked as they sat down under a tree. She swallowed her bite of bread and told him.

"Ye are lucky. The cavalry ride instead of walking. Me, I get to carry a pike and walk. Seems I am too small to manage a claymore." He leaned closer and lowered his voice.

"Rumor is, we'll be joining Leslie and his army quickly. The English New Army is gathering and it canna be long before they cross the border. I heard two officers grumbling because they canna train us properly in the time they hae," he informed her.

He soon proved right. Nine days later, everyone was ordered to break camp and prepare to march. They were to travel northeast to join with brigades waiting there.

Alexia knew how to ride but never in her life had she spent the entire day doing so. The army stopped only a few times each day for meals. The young lass got off her horse gratefully and moaned, her thighs killing her. She hobbled to a thicket of bushes to relieve herself, careful not to be seen. With one discomfort eased, she joined the others in line to wait for her food.

It was a simple meal of hard bread, cheese, a cold slice of ham, and a mug of ale. She had hoped for a warm meal since the day had been chilly but didn't complain like so many of the others. She knew she had it lucky in comparison.

Most of the foot soldiers had already developed blisters because of their poorly shod boots. They were also tired and sore from carrying their packs and weapons. They grumbled under their breaths so the officers wouldn't hear them as they took the knives issued to them to break the swollen flesh. Alexia thought it was a bad idea but kept silent. The less attention she received the better.

She quickly finished her meal and cleaned her utensils. Returning them to her pack, she strolled around the camp to loosen her sore muscles. All too soon, they were ordered to make ready to march.


(Early Sept 1650)

Several weeks later, they found themselves attached to brigades. Things were crumbling in Alexia's opinion. The Covenanting ministers had authority over the Scottish military and to Leslie's frustration, they had dismissed any soldier that didn't meet up with their godly standards. Many of the experienced soldiers had been ousted from the army, leaving mainly ill-trained men.

Because of this, Leslie decided that most of the troops were to remain in Edinburgh behind the walls. By avoiding open conflict with the English and using ambush tactics to chip away at the English troops, as well as burning fields, he hoped to defeat them by starvation and illness.

It was working. Cromwell's* forces were marching across Scotland on little more than nerve. Their supply ship was waiting for them in Dunbar which was several days away. The English soldiers were wet, tired, and starving. Only the officers were given tents in which to sleep at night.

Unable to defeat Edinburgh, and the Scottish army sitting on a hill overlooking their path to the sea—and blocking a land route back to England. The English army was in bad shape and knew it. They needed a miracle and now. Resigned, they headed for the port in Dunbar and hoped for the best.

It came in the form of the ministers in charge of the Scottish army. Convinced the English were retreating, they ordered Leslie to attack. Leaving their advantageous position on Doon Hill, they camped in the cornfields and awaited Cromwell's troops.

Seeing this, Cromwell sent 9 regiments out during the dark of night to flank the Scots. The tide was turning.

Alexia sat around a fire with several men while they drank their beer and spoke of the next day. The girl felt her stomach clench, not in the least anxious for it to begin. This would be her first, and most likely, last battle. Her fellow soldiers were confident of their victory and joked and laughed half the day.

Most of the officers were visiting local farms nearby, looking forward to a good night's rest and hot meals. In the camps, men were also entertained by a few forward lasses who 'consoled' poor soldiers for a price. Alexia did her best to ignore the grunts and groans inside nearby tents. Several times she was taunted for not indulging in a bit of 'manly sport'.

"Alex lad, come here," a man said, obviously choking on laughter. Men snickered as she looked over her shoulder. Walter stood there, his arm draped over a young camp follower. She was just a few years older than Alexia, with curly brown hair and a pleasing figure.

"Stand up lad, and bend a leg to Molly. The fellows and I thought you ought to be introduced to manhood before your first battle." The others chuckled as young Alex turned scarlet and stuttered out a protest, which they ignored. Alexia found herself shoved into an empty tent on the edge of camp.

"No need to be nervous lad, I be good to ye," Molly crooned, her hands sliding down her arms.

"You don't understand, I can't!" she argued.

"Och, surely ye can. A fine strapping lad like yerself is willing and able. I bet yer-" Molly's hand slid down Alexia's body, intending to give the lad a squeeze, she found something else. "Blimey! Yer a-" Alexia quickly covered her mouth. Molly didn't struggle so Alexia dropped her hand.

"Yer a woman?" she whispered in shock. The red head nodded, blushing. The camp follower quickly sat her down onto the blanket.

"Listen, I'll not tell a soul, but ye hae got to do as I say. The fellows outside are probably listening to what we're doing, ye know how men are. We've got to give them a good show or they'll likely come in to show ye how it's done, ye ken?"

Alexia gulped audibly and asked what to do. Molly smiled and pulled the startled woman down on top of her. She occasionally took other women as lovers and she was attracted to the shy redhead. "Hae ye ever been kissed lass?" she asked softly. Alexia shook her head.

Molly gently urged her face closer and brushed her lips with her own. The kiss was soft and unhurried. At first, the Lass from Moss was shocked and almost pulled away, but as the kiss continued, she found she liked how it felt. She tentatively returned the kiss, lost in the gentleness of it. When Molly opened her mouth further and used her tongue to tease her lip, Alexia groaned in pleasure, copying the other woman's motions with her own.

The men outside the tent elbowed one another as they watched the hazy shadows inside the tent. They were doing their best to keep quiet, not wanting the lad to know he was on display.

Inside, Molly was experiencing a liquid warmth she only felt with other women. Men paid for their sex, but the coupling was quick and rough. This young lass was gentle, and although inexperienced, seemed to be sharing her pleasure.

She brought Alexia's hand to her breast. Somewhat shy at first, the lass began touching it softly, plumping the tender mound. Molly moaned and broke the kiss. She quickly unbuttoned her shift, baring her breasts. Alexia looked shaken and her wide eyes glanced nervously at her, silently asking what she wanted of her.

"Caress them, use your hands and mouth," she instructed in a soft whisper.

Alexia lifted her shaking hand and touched the warm flesh. Surprised at how cushy soft it was, she began gently kneading it as Molly closed her eyes in obvious pleasure. Feeling more confident, her caresses became bolder as Molly's breathing grew louder. Alexia watched, fascinated as the dark pink nipples of her teats hardened and puckered. Curious, she pinched it softly and watched as Molly arched and whimpered.

"Did I hurt ye?" she asked worriedly.

"Nay, if feels divine," the camp follower gasped. Reassured, Alexia returned to the caresses, feeling a longing she had no name for. She felt warm and her heart was racing, but not from fear. As she explored Molly's breasts, she felt an ache in her own. Recalling Molly had asked that she use her mouth as well, she bent closer. The sight of the puckered flesh made her mouth water, as though she was looking at a lavish meal.

Eagerly, she took the beaded nub into her mouth and followed her instincts. Suckling on the flesh, she felt Molly arch and writhe beneath her. The woman's actions brought out an unknown feeling of power in the young lass pleasuring her. Instinctively, she knew her touches were drawing out exquisite sensations from the woman. Now excited and aroused, Alexia began feasting on the flesh in earnest.

Moving to the other breast, she eagerly took the hard nipple between her teeth and tugged, making the woman squeal and arch. Pleased at her response, Alexia repeated the motion before taking it into her mouth. While the soldier was suckling hard on it, Molly wrapped her short legs about her waist and held on tightly. She was moaning non-stop, urging her on with words of praise. Alexia felt powerful and although she didn't know where this would go, was eager to follow it to the end.

After several minutes, Molly pushed Alexia back a bit and dragged her skirt up, showing her lack of undergarments. Alexia saw another woman's privies for the first time, staring at the wet nest and thighs.

"Come here lad," Molly ordered, pulling Alexia down once more. Taking Alexia's hand, she led it to her damp curls and pulled the red haired lass close. "Feel that?" she asked as the lad/lass' strong fingers explored her wetness and found her sensitive node. Alexia nodded. "Keep yer fingers right there sweetness, and rock yer body against mine. Like a man taking a woman," she instructed quietly.

Alexia began moving her body over the camp follower eagerly, fascinated by the woman's responses. She clutched at her clothing, moaning and gasping with each forward thrust. The lass felt the flesh under her hand grow even slicker. Finding it erotic, she pushed her body harder against the slight woman beneath her and buried her face into her neck, sucking and biting on the taunt flesh there.

Molly squealed but didn't push her away. Instead, she wrapped her arms tighter about her back and urged her for more. The slick flesh coated her hand and she could feel her fingers pressing lower. She became aware of Molly's opening and she slid her fingers further down. Molly moaned and told her yes. Encouraged, Alexia's fingers pushed into the hot entrance and moaned at how the wet heat gloved them. Still thrusting her body in tempo to Molly's, she pushed her fingers inside further. The sensations caused by the motion felt wonderful so the lass from Moss drew them out to thrust again, beginning a steady rhythm.

Molly arched high, bringing her breasts within reach of her mouth. Taking a nipple, Alexia eagerly took it into her mouth. Molly's breathing changed and Alexia sensed something was changing. Within seconds, Molly screamed out her male name and the flesh around her fingers throbbed and squeezed them. Startled by the reaction, the redhead stopped what she was doing, her fingers still deep inside the woman. Molly laid there panting heavily, her eyes closed and body limp. Alexia was at a loss and waited, unsure what to do.

When the woman finally opened her eyes to look at the concerned soldier, she smiled warmly. "Sweetness, if ye were a man, I would marry ye," she whispered with a large grin. Molly kissed her softly and caressed her hair. Alexia drew out her fingers and got to her knees. Molly took a rag from her pocket and wiped off her hand. Standing, she straightened her clothing and took Alexia's arm as they left the tent.

Grinning men waited outside for them. Molly sent them a beaming smile and reached into her pocket, withdrawing the copper coins they paid her for her services for the soldier. "Here, ye keep it. If'n I were to be honest, I should be paying young Alex for his services. He's got the gift of pleasing a woman," she told the stunned men. She leaned forward and kissed Alexia goodbye, to the rowdy catcalls from the men.

The Scottish army was fanned out, with the Cavalry on the right wing, near the beach. Alexia and her fellow cavalrymen were fast asleep, lulled by the sound of the waves. The early morning was peaceful and quiet. The redhead blinked her eyes open, not sure what had woken her. Taking a deep breath of cool misty air, she stretched and sat up. A quick trip to the bushes and she returned to her tent, thinking about going back to bed. Her stomached rumbled, so she grabbed a piece of bread and a slice of cold beef. Quickly eating it, she brushed the crumbs from her shirt and opened the flap to her tent.

A muffled boom of gunfire. Alexia spun around, her eyes searching inland. A sharper crack and the distant sound of shouting. Realizing a battle was in progress she ran to the tents, shouting at her tent mates.

"To arms! To arms! The Roundheads are attacking!" she screamed. Men scrambled from their sleeping places, donning their clothing and reaching for weapons. Alexia headed for her horse and quickly grabbed the blanket and saddle. Her horse was skittish and sidestepped. It took several agonizing minutes to get the equipment mounted properly. Around her, others were doing the same, shouting and cursing as they tried to rally.

Bracing her foot into the stirrup, she got onto her horse just as she heard the rumble of charging horses. Alexia quickly lifted her musket and barely had time to fire. She had the briefest of satisfactions when one English cavalryman fell from his horse, then was overwhelmed by the swarming enemy. The borderer felt a burning sting to her face and began falling to the side. Her horse panicked as her hands held onto the reins, then stumbled. His leg twisted in the soft sandy soil, breaking, and Alexia was pinned beneath his thrashing side.

She was unconscious during the battle, never witnessing their defeat. The Scots tried their best to stand against the English, but the fight left them as their lines were broken. Many fled, only to be hunted down and shot for sport. Those who attempted to swim downriver were used as target practice by the English troops, who betted on how many shots were need to kill them.

The bodies on the field lay two to three deep in places. Cromwell took over 10,000 prisoners that day. Many of the Scots had just thrown down their weapons, never firing a shot. Those not killed in battle scattered, praying they could escape Cromwell's wrath. Casualties for the Scot army ran over 3,000.

"This one is alive Captain!"

Alexia felt rough hands drag her from beneath her dead mount. She moaned as the circulation returned to her legs.

"Toss him in with the others corporal," a bored voice returned.

Rough hands grabbed her arms and she was half aware of being dragged along. Opening her eyes didn't help. Her vision was blurred. Weak and disoriented, she didn't resist when chains were clamped onto her. She fell once more into darkness.

When she awoke once more, someone was holding her in their arms, forcing a cup of water to her lips. Choking a bit, she managed to swallow a small amount before opening her eyes. The blurry image of Donald greeted her.

"Damn, we be alive?" she asked gruffly. Donald laughed without humor.

"Aye, we be alive. Barely. The bloody bastards caught us with our trousers down and wiped the field with us. I had a musket ball go through my arm and couldna hold onto my weapon any longer." Alexia now noticed the dark stain of dried blood that covered his sleeve. "It looks as though you caught a sword to your face Alex. It dinna go deep though. Ye ought to have a good scar for now on. Ye know how the ladies love a good scar and tale. They'll be hot to bed ye after this," he teased.

Alexia moaned and blushed. "Ye know about last night?"

"Aye, twas a good tale. I heard ye mightily impressed dear Molly." He didn't dare add more, not wanting others to know Alex was a woman. His mind paused. If he spoke to the English and told them about Alex, they might let her go. But to what? His mind asked. Nay, twas better she die a soldier rather than in prison or worse. Perhaps they planned on executing them all.

Unknown to Donald, Cromwell already had plans for the prisoners. Half would be released, too wounded to travel. Besides, it wasn't possible to handle 10,000 prisoners. The ministers and officers would stand trial. The rest would be sent over to the colonies. Workers were like gold to the under-populated Americas. The Scottish common soldiers would be sold as indentured servants. In the meantime, they would be marched to England so none of their comrades could attempt a rescue.

Alexia and Donald weren't among the lucky ones released. Their wounds weren't serious enough to let them go. They were gathered and huddled together in chains then pushed forward. It would be a hard march to England. One hundred and eighteen miles to be exact.

They were pushed hard. The Roundheads wanted to return home quickly. Their supplies were low. There wasn't any food to spare for the prisoners. With untreated wounds, no food, and wet weather, the men began dropping like flies. Occasionally, as they passed Scottish towns and villages, women would toss bits of food to the men.

Starving, they grabbed at the food like animals. The stronger often won out. Alexia managed a get hold of a wee piece of cheese and quickly stuffed it into her mouth, afraid another would steal it. It did little to ease the gnawing hunger in her belly. The only thing that helped was stopping at pools of water, where they were allowed to drink as much as they wished.

The lass would hungrily hunt for anything edible in the water, eating lilies, weeds, and once, a small fish that was too slow for her greedy hands.

Each night, they would fall exhausted from their traveling. The prisoners would huddle together for warmth.

Nearly to England, the English stopped for the night in Morpeth. In unburned fields grew cabbages. The prisoners ate the raw cabbages in large numbers. After living on a starvation diet for so long, the cabbages sickened most of them.

They marched on. Already, more than 1000 of them had fallen dead on the way. Many more would yet die.

They reached Durham and their march was done. They were locked up in the large cathedral there. Those in authority made arrangements for coal and food to be supplied to the prisoners but little reached them. Greedy hands sold the supplies to others for bargain prices and filled their pockets. The Scots began burning everything they could inside the cathedral, sparing only the clock for it bore the Scottish emblem, the thistle.

Alexia dropped weight on her already too thin frame. The only thing of benefit in this was that her menses had stopped altogether. It was one last thing to hide from the men. She sat huddled next to Donald, too weak to move about. Some food managed to reach the prisoners, but it didn't last long or go far. She watched as one by one, bodies were carried from the church and tossed into a mass grave behind the building. (Their remains would be forgotten and discovered in 1946.)

The Lass of Moss woke, shivering and cold. Donald's arm drooped limply over her shoulder. She nudged him in the ribs to wake him. He didn't move. Dread filled her heart as she sat up and looked upon his face. It was ashen and blank. Biting her lip, she reached out tentatively and touched his neck. He was dead.

Leaning forward, she gripped his threadbare coat and wept silently against him. It wasn't fair, that he died before she did. Now she was truly alone in this dreadful world with no one to guide her. She wept until nothing was left inside of her, gripping his body until a guard tore him from her grasp and carried him away.

The transport ship was an old wooden vessel. Alexia looked up at from the dock, wondering where she'd end up. No one would tell her group anything. They were forced onto the ship and locked into small holds. Chained together in the dark, all they could do was sit and wait during the long voyage across the ocean.

One blessing during the voyage, they were given regular meals. Nothing lavish of course, but it kept them alive. Alexia felt as though she may have gained a few pounds. Once a week, they were brought to the decks and washed down with seawater and soap. The captain disliked the odors that came from their holds. While they were bathing, their prison hold was scrubbed down.

On Sundays, they were brought up to listen to a brief sermon by the ship's priest. Alexia tuned him out, not listening to the man as he told them to be grateful for their lives, to be humble, and to obey those in charge of them. She felt nothing, much like she did after the death of her family. The female prisoner would eat when given food, follow quietly when led about, and nothing more. She didn't cause trouble but neither was she eager to obey.

Finally, they reached the colonies. It was early spring and the warmth from the sun was welcomed by one and all. The prisoners were led to barracks and locked inside until someone paid for their passage. They were in effect, now white slaves in the New World for the next 4-7 years.

A man approached Alexia in the barracks, escorted by several guards. He looked over the gangly youth and nodded. "He'll do," the gentleman said. She was told to go with her new master and led from the barracks.

"I am Deacon Jonathon Waller. I am a fair man but listen to me well. I'll not tolerate a surly attitude nor disobedience. Do as you're told and we'll get along. I'm sure you've been told of the rules of your services and I'll not need to repeat them," he stated solemnly.

"Aye Master Waller." Alexia told him. Her new master sighed heavily.

"Well, at least your brogue isn't so thick that I can't understand you. Where are you from lad?"

"From near the Scottish border, near Old Caerlaverock Castle. My father was a tenant farmer there," she told him.

"So you know something of the land. That's good. I have a small horse farm a few miles from town. You are one of three servants I'll have working it. I have a blacksmith who wants an assistant and although you are slight in weight, I believe you'll fill out in time. You have large hands and strong shoulders. If you work your service well and give me no trouble, I'll pay you a fair severance fee and offer you employment. Our smith is getting on in years and by then, I think ready to retire. What say you Mr. Browne?"

What could Alexia say? It was more than fair. She just hoped she could keep her gender a secret. She wasn't sure how the man would react to the knowledge she was female. Women of good character would not act as she had. It was better never to speak of it and hope for the best. She agreed to his terms and joined him on the wagon.

Mrs. Waller was a portly woman in her early thirties. Her eyes were kind and Alexia warmed to her quickly. She was taken under the woman's wing and given fresh clothing to wear after a bath. A small oaken tub was placed behind a privacy curtain in one corner near the fire.

Clean and in fresh clothing, she felt better than she had in ages. She glanced at herself in a costly looking glass and stared in wonder. She indeed bore a scar from her brow to mid cheek. It was puckered and pale on her fair skin. Never a vain girl, she decided it helped with her mannish image.

"A pity about the scar young man, but I doubt it will frighten off too many of the ladies. It gives you a distinguished air Mr. Brown." Abigail Waller told her.

"I doubt if I'll marry Mrs. Waller," she said quietly. She certainly couldn't hide her gender if she was insane enough to marry! But…Alexia longed for someone to be with, especially now she knew about the pleasures of the flesh. She remembered Molly's sweet skin and gentle hands. Lost in thought, she wasn't aware of the kind woman's eyes watching every nuance of her face.

"Did you leave someone behind Mr. Browne?"

"Nay, although there was once someone I thought special. And please, call me Alex if you would. You call me Mr. Browne and I look around for my father," she grinned.

"Alex then. Is your family still in Scotland?"

"Nay, they were killed by a border raid a few months before I joined the army. I'm the last of my family." Alexia swallowed hard, feeling the pain of their loss after all this time. Mrs. Waller clucked her tongue sympathetically and patted her back.

"Well, you have a place here lad. It will turn out alright. The Lord never closes one door without opening another." She led him to the kitchen, where the other servants took their meals. Sitting, the redhead took in the others.

Mrs. Waller stood next to the tall youth and began introducing everyone.

"This young lady is Beth Ireland, our cook and housekeeper," a shy blue eyed lass smiled at her and returned to stirring her pot. "And this gentleman is George Blackburn, who trains our horses and tends the barn." The wary man nodded and held out his hand. They shook briefly while another was introduced.

Pointing at another young man, she continued, "This is Matthew Clarke, who works doing a little of everything." A huge elderly man entered the kitchen from outside. "And this is gentleman is the one you'll be assisting, Allen Holts, the blacksmith."

"So this be the one to help me eh? You had better feed him Mrs. Waller, he looks like a slight wind would blow him about," he said, his tone not completely unkind. He would be a hard taskmaster, she was sure.

The woman chuckled as she looked around the room. "Now where is Lydia?" she said, annoyed the woman was once again late for supper. She turned to Alexia, "Lydia helps with the laundry and sewing. I suppose you'll meet her later. Take care of young Mr. Browne everyone," she asked of everyone and left the room.

Beth set food on the table and everyone sat down. Prayers were said and they ate rather silently. Perhaps her arriving made them shy to speak. Alexia ate her meal, enjoying it immensely. She complemented Beth lavishly as seconds were heaped onto her plate. The woman beamed shyly and sat down.

The outer door opened and a young woman entered hurriedly. She apologized for her tardiness and said a quick prayer over her plate. Alexia studied the new arrival.

She had dark brown hair that was shiny and long, covered in a cap. Olive skin was highlighted by dark amber colored eyes, and a trim womanly figure. She had full lips and high cheekbones. The young woman ate daintily without speaking, but the food disappeared quickly. Once finished, she left the room and went into the house.

"That was Lydia," whispered Beth. "Her mother was taken captive by wild savages. She escaped but came back pregnant with Lydia. Her poor mother took one look at her when she was born and died. She was fostered to one of the families in town. She doesn't talk much."

Alexia didn't ask anything but her thoughts went to the lovely lass who had left all too quickly. She was compelling and exotic. The former soldier had felt stirrings inside of her, akin to how she felt touching Molly that night so long ago. For the first time in her life, Alexia wished she was actually a man, so she could court a woman openly.

The sun began setting. Allen offered to show Alex her quarters and wished everyone a good night. Alexia stared at the ceiling of her tiny room and thought about the lass named Lydia.

Several weeks passed and the agonizing pain from muscles overused had ended. With filling meals and hard work, Alexia noticed her strength increasing daily. Her ribs no longer stood out like some macabre living skeleton. Although the work days were long,she didn't mind. She knew how lucky she was in comparison to the other prisoners. Deacon Waller had informed her that most had been sent to the Caribbean to work on plantations. Others were sent to an iron mill. She had been lucky indeed. The Wallers were fair folk, never abusing their servants. As to Allen, he was tough but fair, never once raising his voice. He was a patient man who took pride in his craft. He explained each step, the reasons behind them, never allowing for shoddy work.

At the moment, she was hammering out nails to use in building. It was tiring, boring work, but much needed. Repairs had to be completed before the coming winter. She finished yet another nail and dropped it into a wooden bucket at her feet. Taking a breather, she stepped over to the well and took a drink with the ladle from the waiting bucket. Leaning against the stone well, she gazed into the field behind the house.

Lydia was hanging laundry. Alexia sighed. The young woman was standoffish, never once smiling or greeting her. Allen had noticed her futile attempts at being friendly rebuffed and slapped her back in sympathy. It seemed Lydia allowed no one close to her. The blacksmith could see the longing in the lad's eyes, and reminded him that indentured servants couldn't even marry without their master's blessing. The red haired lad had only nodded sadly.

Allen rubbed his rough chin and pondered a bit. The boy didn't eye the girl with lust, but with something else. He remembered once when he was a mere boy himself, watching the daughter of the cook as she helped in the kitchens. The smallest of smiles would brighten his day. A simple greeting would make happiness bubble up inside of him. Recalling those more innocent times, he could feel for the lad. He could see no harm in them finding companionship or even a fledgling romance. Both were quite young and Allen doubted the boy would be ready for marriage any time soon. Plotting in his mind, he grinned as an idea came to him.

"Lad, I think you need to have Lydia make you a few new shirts. You're growing quickly, and those you have are getting too small. Tell her I asked for them to be made," he advised the lad. He gave Alex a prod to the back of his pants with his boot and grinned as the young man left eagerly to speak to the seamstress.

The young woman was just finishing with hanging the wet clothing on the strung rope when Alexia approached her. She stood to the side, patiently waiting until she finished and acknowledged her. Lydia picked up her basket and only spared the tall redhead a glance as she stepped past the apprentice. Disappointed inside, she still needed to ask for the shirts and chased after her.

"Lydia? Mr. Holts told me to come to ye. He would like ye to make me two new shirts, for these are growing too small." Pride stopped her from saying more. After being rebuffed too many times, she was reluctant to be disappointed more.

The young woman sighed and told her to come inside. Carefully wiping her boots on the woven mat outside the door and removing her dirty leather apron, she entered the house. The seamstress fetched her sewing chest and returned, placing it on the table. She took out a measuring tape and told her to stand up straight and stay still.

Her warm hands settled on her shoulders as she measured their width. Alexia felt a pleasurable chill pimple the back of her neck. The hands moved away as though on fire. Alexia heard the girl's breathing change. Had she felt it too? Lydia didn't say anything for almost a minute, then her curt voice told her to hold her arms out. Trembling hands measured their length.

Alexia turned her head, gazing at the beauty's face. She saw that Lydia's face was strained, the first real emotion ever seen on her features. She watched as Lydia nervously wound up the tape.

"Why are you afraid of me Lydia? Have I done something to frighten you?" she dared to whisper.

"I am not afraid of you Mr. Browne," she said defiantly.

Alexia took her shaking hand in her own. Lydia tried to pull it away but Alexia's strong hand kept a gentle hold of it. "Then why do ye tremble Lydia?" The young woman looked on the verge of panic. "Lydia, look at me, please." Amber eyes rose to her own. "Do ye see someone who would harm ye in these eyes?" she asked softly.

Lydia stopped struggling to break free as their eyes remained locked. "Nay," she managed to whisper.

"Thank ye lass." Alexia raised the woman's hand to her lips and placed the softest of kisses on the knuckles. She allowed Lydia to step back and regain her composure. The apprentice turned and left the house.

Alexia sighed, tired and hot from a long days work. She removed her waist coat and shirt. Washing at the basin, she removed the grime of the day. The cool water felt good in the summer heat and the redhead didn't bother drying off. Laying down on her bed, she decided to nap before dinner.

The apprentice didn't hear the light knock on her door. Neither did she hear it open. Someone stood over her bed in shock, staring down at the sleeping young woman. It wasn't until an outraged palm struck her cheek did she waken.

Green eyes opened wide and saw two furious amber eyes glaring down at her. Lydia! Realizing her secret was out, she could only lie there stunned.

"Serpent! Liar! You approach me with sweet words and soft eyes and all this time you are a woman?" Lydia was breathing hard, fueled by rage.

"Lydia, please!" Alexia didn't know exactly what she was asking for. Forgiveness, understanding, perhaps even for silence. Tears fell from her eyes as her shoulders slumped in defeat.

The seamstress stood there silent for long minute, then carefully sat down next to her on the bed, her anger gone for now. Lydia had heard Alex Browne's tale. How he survived battle, famine, and the long voyage to reach Boston. Now he…she, sat huddled and broken. Without thought, her hand reach out and stroked the bare skin of her back. Her touch tore a sob from the tormented woman. Lydia's heart went out to someone for the first time in her isolated life.

She drew Alex into her arms and held her as she wept. Never had she heard such pain pour out from someone before.

Alexia couldn't stop crying. Everything she had held back for the last year came gushing out. Her family's death, the war, the hardships, and most of all, her intense loneliness since Donald's death. It took a long time for the tears to taper off. Numb from her bout of tears, she clung to the young woman holding her. The borderer could hear the beating of Lydia's heart where her cheek rested. A warm hand played with her hair. Now losing herself in the comforting embrace, her body sagged limply against her.

"Do you wish to speak of it?" Lydia asked kindly.

"Nay, but I owe ye an explanation," she sighed and sat up. Reaching down, she found her crumpled shirt and put it on, hiding her small breasts. Leaning forward and staring at her hands, she told the listening seamstress of the last year of her life. The young woman never spoke and allowed her to speak uninterrupted.

Lydia never doubted a word of the story. It was told too simply to be a lie. As the tale progressed, she felt a strong admiration for the woman/child next to her. Few could have survived as she did against such odds. Now, the only unanswered question was why did the redhead try to woo her. Was it part of the pretence to hide what she was? Lydia was afraid to ask.

As Alex—Alexia, finished her tale, Lydia felt almost as numb as the teller.

"Are you going to reveal my secret Lydia?" Alex asked nervously.

"I…nay, I know I should, but can not bring myself to do so." She knew in her heart she could never do anything to hurt her further. "In your own way, you are an outcast like I am," she confessed before she could stop the words from escaping.

"An outcast?"

Lydia sighed. "Yes, because of my mixed heritage. You haven't lived in the Colonies long enough to know how people feel about the Indians. I'm sure you heard the gossip about me. How my mother took one look at my dark skin and hair and died, unable to bear the shame. One of the Pilgrim families raised me out of duty, but they never allowed me to forget how I killed my mother. I have tainted blood and can never atone for the sin of my birth. "

The Scot sat silently and considered what she had been told. Following her heart, it took little time to know how she felt. "Lydia, ye are a bonnie lass. Children don't ask to be born, it just happens. It's part of God's will. If He dinna want ye to exist, ye wouldn't. It's not man's right to judge what He creates."

Lydia's upbringing almost made her condemn the young woman. What she spoke of would have the founding fathers and ministers in religious outrage if they heard it, yet she felt a weight lift from her shoulders. She wanted to believe God loved her as she was. Grateful for the kind words, she took the redhead's hands in her own and leaned forward to press a light kiss to Alexia's cheek, who promptly blushed.

A knock on the door just before it opened started both of them. Mrs. Waller strolled in and caught the two young people as they sat there holding hands. Both of them looked at her in embarrassment and broke apart. Abigail took in the fact both were fully dressed and it didn't appear to be nothing more than young love and cow eyes going on. But Lydia should have known better than to be alone in a young man's room. It wasn't proper. She would speak to her privately later.

"Well, it seems I interrupted unwittingly," she said with a kind smile.

"We weren't doing anything but speaking Mrs. Waller, on my honor!" Alexia protested, not wanting Lydia to get into trouble. The older woman raised her hand to stop any further explanations.

"I'm sure that was all it was young Mr. Browne. If I thought otherwise, I would be dragging Lydia from this room and bringing you to my husband to be whipped. BUT, I am also sure that the two of you will practice better judgment in the future." Both heads nodded in relief.

"If you wish to court Lydia, I will speak to Mr. Waller about allowing it, " she said helpfully. The two did make a lovely couple. When Alex took over his duties as the blacksmith, he would need a wife to settle him down. In spite of the seamstress' background, she was a good girl who worked hard.

Alexia blushed even a deeper red at her words. She needed to speak privately with Lydia about this, but she could tell Mrs. Waller wanted an answer. Gazing into Lydia's eyes, she saw compassion and kindness. Perhaps they could pretend to court for a while, then ease away from it, claiming they didn't suit. Everyone would be satisfied and Alexia would at least get to spend some time with the young woman.

"If ye would please Mrs. Waller," she asked bashfully.

Pleased that she had some small role in their future, she reminded them dinner was about to be served and left the small room.

"I'm sorry, I dinna ken what else to do. Now that ye ken my secret, I willna fault ye for rejecting my suit."

Lydia wasn't sure how to ask her question, but she would try. "Do you…well, do you find…women attractive? I mean, did you pursue me to hide what you were, or…" she was at a loss.

"In Scotland, I never had a boy who interested me. I never had girlish dreams of marrying. It was something expected, but I dinna hope for it. When I was in that army camp, the men hired a…" Alexia was reluctant to speak of such matters in front of the pious girl, "they hired one of the women who follow army camps. They serviced the men's baser needs. In their eyes, I was a young lad who would probably die the next day and they dinna want me dying untried. Before I could say a word, I was pushed into a wee tent with her." Alexia didn't want to explain all that occurred, but wanted Lydia to know some of it.

"We did touch in that tent. Her hands were kind and soft. I should hae been shocked at what we were doing, but it felt wonderful. I felt cherished, if only for a wee bit. Never had I been touched like that in my life. The only time I recall my folks using their hands on me, it was to cuff me for some infraction."

"I'm not asking for more than friendship sweet Lydia. I ken understand how this would be seen in the eyes of others, but I ask that ye not be afraid of me. I'll not ask for what ye canna give," she promised.

The seamstress sighed and stood up. "Well, for the meantime, it seems we expected to spend time together. Now, if we don't go to the supper table, Mrs. Waller may decide we are performing some improper act out here." She held out her hand with a smile. "Escort me to supper Mr. Browne?"

The other members of the household watched the two as they spent time together when their duties permitted. Never again did they cause anyone to criticize their behavior. If they spoke privately, it was done as they sat on the bench under the willow tree in full view of the main house. Touching was limited to innocent hand holding. Most of the household thought them sweet.

Mr. Browne would occasionally bring in wildflowers and shyly hand them to the seamstress, who blushed prettily. They would share looks across the table, spend time reading aloud to one another in the kitchen, and visit the garden together.

Most of all, people nodded happily over the changes in the standoffish seamstress. She smiled often and joined in the chitchat amongst the other servants. The household seemed a happier place.

Alexia looked up and smiled as she spotted Lydia approaching with a tray. On it was a pitcher and two mugs. She smiled bashfully as their eyes met.

"I thought you and Mr. Holts would appreciate some cool cider on this hot day."

"I thank thee Miss Owens. We would indeed enjoy it," Allen said with a smile. He took the tray from her hands and placed it on a worktable. He hid a grin as he watched the youths smile at one another, the drinks forgotten.

Lydia hadn't dared visit Alexia while she worked before. She was amazed at how strong she looked. Her arms were quite powerful from the hard work she performed.The seamstress watched in fascination as Alexia confidently pounded the hot iron into a horse shoe. Once finished, she plunged the metal into a bucket of water, making it hiss.

"Is that difficult to do?" she asked, curious. Alex turned to face Mr. Holts and winked.

"Some would think so. Would ye care to try it?"

"May I?" she asked Allen. He nodded and forced back a grin. She allowed Alexia to place an apron upon her, tying the strings behind her. Alexia took a small amount of molten metal from the forge and placed it on the anvil.

"Pick up the hammer Lydia. I show you how it is done." Alexia bit her lip, trying not to laugh as Lydia struggled with the heavy tool. She stepped behind the petite lass and placed her hands over the seamstress'. Her arms now around her warm body, she did her best to concentrate on the lesson and not Lydia's sweet scent and how her own body longed for more. After several minutes of squeals and laughter, the lesson ended.

"I should return to my sewing. Thank thee for your lesson Mr. Browne."

"My pleasure Miss Owens," Alexia smiled.

Mr. Waller asked to speak with him. He was led into his private library, where he did his reading and paperwork for the farm.

"Mr. Browne, you have been with us nearly a year now. Master Holts informs me that you are a good apprentice and doing well."

"Thank ye sir."

"Our neighbors also speak well of you. You are polite, helpful, and quite skilled at shoeing. I'm sure you noticed how often our neighbors come to our farm rather than the blacksmith in town. Mr. Holts feels you should be quite capable of carrying on his work in three years. I know the contract is for another five years, but I have an idea."

Alexia didn't speak from experience. Jonathon Waller, once started, was hard to stop.

"You are nearly old enough to marry. I know you and Lydia have spent a great deal of time in one another's company. I am willing to grant you permission to wed. I would see the two of you content. In three years, Mr. Holts plans to retire and enjoy his golden years in England. The colonies never quite suited him. What say you Mr. Browne?"

Alexia sat there stunned, not knowing how to react. She needed to talk to Lydia desperately. This wasn't just spending time together anymore, this was real.

"I…Mr. Waller, I am stunned. Ye hae caught me in surprise. Ye already know that I am willing to take over his duties when he is ready, but marriage? I hae not even voiced that possibility with Lydia. I am not a freedman yet."

"Of course Mr. Browne, and that was quite proper of you. Why don't the two of you talk it over. I know the young woman is fond of you."

"We hae become good friends," she said, hoping to ease into him accepting them not marrying.

"Friends often make the best spouses," Jonathon said, his enthusiasm undimmed.

"Aye sir." She said in defeat. "I will speak to ye again. Thank ye."

"He what?! My God have mercy on us all, we can not wed Alexia! If your secret was found out, we'd both be doomed. Unwed, I can claim innocence as you told me to do, but I cannot claim it once married. Even a virgin like myself would know the difference between a man and a woman. What are we to do?"

"I dinna know Lydia. I canna think of a reason not to do so. We spend all of our time together. We've become good friends. We've never gotten around to 'parting ways'.To refuse to wed would cause just as much trouble as exposing myself for what I am. I'm sorry sweet Lydia."

"You could claim that my mixed heritage was unacceptable," she suggested.

"Nay, I would not dishonor ye in that manner Lydia. Besides, if I were to say such a thing, people would gossip as to why I spent time with you. I can hear them now, 'If she isn't good enough to wed, then what was he getting from her?' People would assume I had taken your virginity."

Lydia sighed, knowing she was correct.

"Lydia, we hae to wed, but hear me out, please! We will be verra careful. Later on, we could part in a way without shame to yerself. Ye could privately tell the magistrate that I am unable to function as a man. He would annul our marriage. I would not stand in yer way if ye met someone ye truly wished to marry."

Lydia forced back the tears that threatened to spill. In her heart, she wished Alexia was really a man. She was kind, thoughtful, and would make a good husband. She felt closer to the redhead than she could ever imagine. Sighing, she nodded in agreement.

Alexia looked towards the main house. "Do ye think ye could tolerate a show of affection from me? I think we need to put on a bit of show." Lydia agreed although she didn't ask for more details. She would trust Alexia to guide her.

They walked hand in hand towards the back door, quite aware of eyes peering through the curtains. A few yards from the house, she paused and turned to Lydia. She placed a trembling hand on her cheek and bent down and kissed her softly. It didn't last long, but Lydia had found the kiss enjoyable. Somewhat shaken by her feelings, she leaned towards her friend looking for comfort. Surrounded by strong arms, they held one another for a long moment before continuing to the house.

The people inside didn't need to know Lydia's answer. After the last year, they expected the couple to happily wed. Everyone gave them their best wishes, congratulating them on their future.

Jonathon Waller announced that he would have a small cottage built for the couple come spring, and would supply the funds for wedding bands and essentials needed for their home as his gifts to the happy couple. Alexia thanked him with proper appreciation for his kindness.

The next few months were a blur in Alexia's mind. He and Mr. Waller filed the legal paperwork for his renewed contract and his intent to marry. Their engagement was announced at the church, and although a few disapproved because of Lydia's background, most were genuinely pleased for the couple.

In addition to her normal duties, Alexia also helped with the building of their cottage. Exhausted, she had little energy remaining to spend with Lydia. The seamstress had been understanding, even when she had arranged for a picnic for them and Alexia fell asleep, her head upon her lap. The apprentice hadn't seen the indulgent look on her face at that moment. Nor was she aware of the hand that caressed her hair.

When the cottage was nearly finished, Lydia hung curtains she had sewn from the material given to her by Abigail. George had surprised them with some furniture he had made in secret, providing them with several chairs, a table, and a bed which included a well stuffed goose-feather mattress. Allen provided his apprentice with small iron stove he had managed to find. Along with it, he gave candlesticks and lamps he had made himself. Beth had traded her preserves and did extra work for neighbors to afford giving them linens and blankets.

Now complete, they needed only the wedding to move in. It was scheduled for Friday morning in the small village church.

It was done. It had been a flurry of activities and celebration throughout the day, but now they were alone. Alexia was holding her wife in her arms and shutting the cottage door with her boot. Lydia had her arms wrapped around her shoulders, still unsure the large woman had the strength to hold her securely. They laughed as Alexia spun her around and tossed her gently onto the bed.

The redhead crawled onto the soft bed and collapsed next to her, emotionally exhausted.

"Tis been a long day," she murmured to Lydia.

"We should go to sleep then," she suggested.

"Aye." Alexia agreed but didn't move. The long days had finally caught up to her. She dozed off but woke when she felt her boots being removed. She started to protest and sat up but Lydia shushed her. She continued removing her clothing. Next came the waistcoat that Lydia had embroidered for her. Her shirt was unbuttoned and brushed aside. Beneath it, Alexia wore bindings around her to hide the breasts that had bloomed.

Shyly, Lydia unwrapped them. She felt a blush pinken her cheeks as their bounty was revealed.

"Och, nothing can possibly feel better than breathing freely," she moaned. Lydia chuckled. She urged Alexia to stand. The redhead took over the job of removing her breeches. Now standing in nothing but her underclothing, she offered to help Lydia from her gown. The seamstress blushed but allowed it. Alexia unbuttoned it carefully and helped her step out of it. She spared a glance to her blushing bride and opened a drawer to find their nightshirts. She handed one to Lydia and politely turned her back, giving the young woman some privacy as they changed.

Each slipped beneath the coverlets of the bed and laid upon their backs, each staring up at the ceiling. The tension as great between them. Unable to withstand another second, Alexia complained.

"Och, this is silly. Just because we are married does it mean we must act it. Come here Lydia," she ordered, holding out her arm. Lydia looked uncertain. "Come, we are friends. Let us snuggled this night, for I hae always wanted to just hold ye close," she smiled.

The dark haired woman let out her held breath and moved closer, settling her head upon Alexia's broad shoulder. She felt a strong arm curl around her and warm lips nuzzle her hair. Her head rose and fell as Alexia took a deep breath and all the tension from the day eased away. Being held in this manner was unfamiliar, but Lydia became aware of the rightness of it. Her eyes closed and sleep overtook her.

The sun shined brightly around the edges of the thick curtains. A tiny ray caught Lydia's eyes and nudged her awake. As awareness of her surroundings filtered in, she realized she and Alexia hadn't moved the entire night.

She could feel the steady rise and fall of her bosom, the warmth of her body, and the security of a strong arm around her. Lydia tried not to think about it. She pushed away her concerns and just allowed the moment to exist.

Her spouse showed signs of awakening as well, but Lydia kept her eyes closed and remained still. She wasn't quite ready yet to face a new day. Listening to Alexia's heartbeat, she knew the moment she woke. Nothing happened at first for Alexia remained quite still. Then her hand moved slowly along her arm until their hands met. A callus thumb caressed the back of her hand gently. The touch was nice and the seamstress felt the corner of her mouth quirk.

The thumb kept its steady rhythm as Alexia turned her head just a bit and placed a soft kiss on her brow and remained there. Lydia could feel each warm puff of her breathing. For some reason, Lydia almost cried. The memory of what Alexia had once said about her only experience with the carnal side returned to her. About feeling cherished. Lydia suddenly understood what she had expressed.

They were much alike, she and Alexia. Both had grown up feeling out of step with everyone else. No one to openly love them growing up, or had the feeling of belonging to anyone or anything. She had even said it once—outcasts. Now, in this woman's arms, she felt as though she belonged and was loved. There was no doubt in her mind that Alexia would ever reject or leave her. The apprentice wouldn't waste the gift of caring and belonging. She understood how precious it was.

Lydia didn't know if she could ever accept a physical relationship with her spouse, but she saw no reason why they couldn't be lovers in every other way. After all, they were the best of friends.

She shifted her hand and took Alexia's large one in her own, pulling it to her lips and nuzzling it.

"Awake I see," Alexia said, her voice soft. Lydia could picture her gentle smile even with her eyes closed.

"Mmm hmm. Good morning. Sleep well?"

"Aye, I slept like a babe. And you Mrs. Browne?"

"The same. You make a nice pillow," she teased. Alexia chuckled then sighed.

"I suppose we ought to rise."

"Nay, not yet. Besides, we have no work to do for the next two days, remember? Let us rest a bit longer," she suggested and settled closer.

The redhead lifted a surprised brow and wondered where the tension had gone between them. This morning, it seemed as though they have been this way forever. Mentally shaking her head, she decided not to question their good fortune.

"Alright sweet Lydia, but could ye do me a favor? Move to the other side for my arm is sorely numb!"

Her spouse giggled and began crawling over her. Halfway there, she paused, staring down at her. She seemed to consider something then leaned down, pressing a butterfly soft kiss against her lips. Lydia brushed aside a strand of red hair before settling down onto Alexia's other shoulder. Neither said a word about it, but Lydia could hear Alexia's racing heartbeat as warm arms circled her.

Their lazy morning in bed finally ended when Lydia had to visit the chamber pot. Quickly finishing her business, she noticed Alexia had gotten out of bed and undressed, standing there nude. The tall woman was pulling fresh clothing from their chest of drawers, quite unaware that she was being watched.

Never had the seamstress seen a more powerful woman. Her long limbs were strong and supple, rippling with each movement. Her back was wide at the shoulders and narrow at the waist. Alexia bent forward to slip leg into her underclothing and Lydia was blessed with the sight of a flexing backside before it was covered.

The seamstress felt her heart quicken and the chill of the morning disappear. An unknown impulse shot through her mind. It was shocking, forbidden, and made her burn inside. Was this desire?

Alexia turned around. Perhaps she had made a noise or felt her presence. They could only stare at one another, unable to move. The tension became unbearable. Lydia stepped closer, almost within touching distance, their eyes still locked. With pounding hearts, Alexia took the final step.

She placed her hands on Lydia's shoulders and urged her closer. The move wasn't forceful, yet Lydia couldn't fight it. Her hands came up without thought and rested flat upon Alexia's upper chest, just above her breasts. The seamstress could feel the thunderous pounding of her heart and each labored breath.

Her friend leaned closer, eyes shifting between her own and her lips. She knew Alexia was going to kiss her. The seamstress didn't fight it, nor sure if she even wanted to. Their lips met, quietly, sweetly. Lydia felt herself melting as the delicate exploration continued. Then the kiss ended much too soon. It took a moment to recognize the sound of rapping upon their door.

"Yes?" Alexia managed to say, her voice cracking. The person on the other side of the door thought that meant 'Come on in!'. Matthew opened the door bearing a tray. He glanced up, spotting the embracing couple, Alexia's back towards him.

"Lord forgive me!" he said, quickly spinning around. The horse trainer was reddening in embarrassment. The pious man wondered how in the world he'd ever be able to look Mrs. Browne in the eyes again. He had seen her in her nightshift! He gushed out several apologies and shakily placed the tray on a nearby table before rushing out the door.

"We need a lock," Lydia said in mild amusement.

The seamstress came to the conclusion that her friend and spouse had the self control of a saint.

They had been married for several weeks now, yet Alexia's show of affections had been held to soft kisses, snuggling, and hugs. It didn't take Lydia long to become accustomed to these displays. In fact, she enjoyed and looked forward to them. It had become part of their lives, like the coming of the seasons.

Lydia sat in her corner of the main house with her sewing, but her mind wasn't focused on her chore. Instead, it tended to wander, reliving small moments of her new life. Her relationship with Alexia had brought wonder and joy into her world. The seamstress' childhood had been a sober and barren in the stern religious household she grew up in. There had been no true childhood for her. Her time was spent doing chores, praying, and being forever reminded of her unfortunate birth.

With Alexia, she found the freedom of just being silly. Never had anyone shared that with her before. They spent time in playful wrestling, walking in the meadow picking flowers, and sometimes just playing small tricks on one another. Such as when the seamstress had found a frog in her sewing box. A smile curled her lips at the memory of Alexia teaching her how to skip stones in the small pond down the road. Learning the joys of childhood had released her from the shackles of the sternness that had molded her life. With her heart lighter, she was free to see what she had been blind to for the last year. That Alexia adored her.

The redhead's eyes sparkled happily each time their eyes met, genuinely happy just to be near her. Alexia spoke to her with respect and listened to her. Under the blanket of such love, Lydia was finding the self respect she had lacked for so long. Their relationship brought so much to them both.

Most couples married because it was expected of them. That they knew one another was often enough. The reading of the Bible to the family was the duty of the head of the household. Over and over again, the message she had heard all her life was to marry and have as many children as possible. That was the lot a woman had in life. Her marriage to another woman certainly prevented the second duty, to be sure. But was marriage and keeping house all there was? Alexia, as a man, had far greater possibilities in life. Depending on her willingness to work hard and a bit of luck, there were no boundaries for her.

That should have caused resentment in the seamstress but it didn't. She didn't feel like property with Alexia. Lydia had heard the tearful tales of some wives, whose husbands beat them or treated them bitterly. Some, such as Mrs. Waller had a marriage based on true fondness. But with Alexia, she felt free.

It was a cancer in his belly, the doctor had told them. The last few months of his life had been pain ridden and the end had been a blessing. All those in the household were in shock, never expecting one so strong to end his life so early.

Mrs. Waller, with the loyalty of her staff, the kindness of her friends and family, along with her faith, managed to keep from falling apart after the death of her husband.

Everyone had just left. The services had been dignified, attended by those who knew Jonathon. She received their heart felt condolences. Alone in the kitchen, she sat at the table in shock. How would she go on? Lost and terribly alone, she could only sit and stare into nothingness.

The apprentice saw her through the window and felt helpless. Mrs. Waller had been so kind to her, motherly in fact. And now she sat alone in the flickering light of a single candle. She couldn't just walk away and leave her that way. She knocked softly on the door and walked inside.

Abigail looked up sadly, wondering why the young man returned. He stepped closer and knelt over her, wrapping his strong arms around her. The kind gesture was too much. She burst into tears.

Alexia might have once been at a loss with such a reaction, but the knowledge that the weeping would help heal her soul, she gladly held the older woman while the tears washed away some of her pain. They finally ended. The redhead wiped her cheeks with a handkerchief from her pocket. Abigail managed to give her a weak smile and thanked her for her kindness. Standing, she told the young man to seek his own bed. Nodding, he kissed her cheek and left.

The will was read a few days later. The farm and all on its property were to be left to his younger brother, James. His wife would have generous monies to tide her over for the rest of her life. Small mementos were left to various friends and family. It wasn't until the portion regarding the indentured servants did many become surprised.

All of their contracts were considered paid in full. They were now free. The servants had expected that their contracts would be left to the inheritor as permitted by the law. In addition, each would receive enough funds to start anew—to even afford passage back to England if they so desired. Stunned, they could only stare at each other, hardly believing what they had heard.

The lawyer handed each of them a sealed envelope that held their legal severance papers and bank drafts in Boston. He gave his condolences to the widow and left.

James cleared his throat. "Aunt Abby, you know you will always have a home here. There isn't need to leave."

I appreciate it James, but I don't think I could remain here. The memories are too strong. Myfather and I have already spoken. I'm to reside with him. He expects me to remarry no doubt." She said tearfully.

Alexia knew better. People weren't so easily replaced in the heart. She couldn't imagine what she would do if Lydia were gone. The idea saddened her and she took Lydia's hand, needing the contact to chase away the feeling.

Abigail took a deep breath, shaking away her grief by force of will. "However James, I hope you will allow the servants to remain for a short time, so they can plan for their futures." It wasn't quite an order, but her nephew knew his aunt well. He nodded. They couldn't stay too long, however, the farm needed to be tended to. He wondered if some of them would care to remain. He'd chat with them later after this had all sunk in.

The young couple sat at their small table in their cottage and stared at the papers, reading them over and over. Free.

What would happen now? Alexia was terrified. Would Lydia leave her? They had been thrust together by Jonathon's determination and expectations. Now, with money and freedom, would Lydia shake her loose and make a new life for herself elsewhere? Fear twisted at her stomach. The selfish part of the Scot woman wanted to grab hold of her tightly and never let go. But the loving part of her didn't want Lydia to stay if it would make her unhappy.

The woman of her thoughts was lost in her fears as well. Did Alexia wish to return to the battle torn Scotland? Life would be difficult there. The English had formed a Commonwealth but it was shaky. Splinter groups all wanted part of it for different reasons. Cromwell was a leading force behind it but his power was limited. Many wondered if civil wars would break out. Sighing, Lydia rested upon their bed, mentally exhausted.

"Lydia, why don't you just change and get into bed? I'll bring us a tray from the house," she suggested thoughtfully.

The seamstress rose and began undressing as her spouse left the cottage. She slipped under the covers, relishing the cool bedding. Within seconds, she drifted to sleep.

When her eyes fluttered open, she realized that it was quite dark out. The room was illuminated by a lamp across the room. Sluggish, it took a moment to become aware of the warm body wrapped spooned-like behind her. One large arm was curled around her torso and the warm hand protectively circling her own. Now more awake, she rolled carefully to her back to look at the sleeping woman next to her.

As she settled to her new position, Alexia moved in tandem, allowing Lydia to maneuver. Lydia smiled at the way her spouse did that, even in her sleep. The Scot would never place barriers in her path. How unique she was, Lydia thought, gazing at her sleeping face.

Her hand rose without thought and traced the strong features. Her fingers glided over the strong jaw and to the full lips. Her thumb played gently with the lower lip and smiled when Alexia kissed it in her sleep. Brushing aside some red hair, she noticed for the first time that Alexia's eyelashes were pale red-gold. Lydia studied her face further. Alexia couldn't be considered a beauty, but to Lydia, no one could have a more loving face. Her affection for her spouse swelled inside and the need to express it made her lean closer to kiss the sleeping lips.

The mouth under hers responded lazily, the kiss soft and unhurried. Without thought, Lydia became the aggressor, rolling her mate to her back as the kiss continued. Sleepy hands rose, stroking her sides. Lydia felt the intensity of the kiss increase. He mouth became more demanding, unaware that her body was shifting against the larger woman. All she felt was the need inside to somehow get closer to the woman she loved. Her mind didn't even feel surprise at the thought dancing inside of her. It had happened so slowly that it just was there, like the stray cat that became part of the household somehow. One day you tossed it a bit of food, the next moment, the cat had its own pillow in its favorite window.

Lydia never stopped to think or feel fear. Her body took over, knowing what it wanted. She broke the kiss and leaned back onto her haunches, pulling her shift over her head, her eyes staying locked with the green eyes watching in wonder.

"Ye are beautiful Sweet Lydia," she whispered in awe.

The olive skinned woman didn't blush, instead, the woman inside smiled in acknowledgement and returned to their heated kiss. Both women were breathing hard now with their need. Alexia's large hands stroked her everywhere, memorizing every curve. When the kiss became too much, Lydia broke it, panting for air even as her lips slid along her cheek and jaw to her neck. Her mouth sought its pleasure there, tasting her salty skin. Alexia gasped and clung to her, lost in the sensations her spouse created, whose mouth never stopped, exploring every inch.

Alexia felt the need to touch her as well but sensed Lydia needed to be the one in control for now. Pushing back her desire to take over, she allowed Lydia the freedom she sought.

The smaller woman began placing small kisses along her collar bone then traced it with her tongue. She felt her spouse shiver and hold her closer. Liking the reaction, her mouth sought every curve and dip, enjoying the flavor of her skin. Moving a little lower, she could feel Alexia's pounding heart under her lips.

She rested there for a moment, savoring the vibration as her hand trailed a finger down the center of Alexia's long torso. The strong woman twitched and giggled, obviously ticklish. Lydia chuckled, pleased to have found a new weapon in her arsenal.


"Nay, of course not," Alexia denied. Lydia began making lazy figures on her stomach and ribs with her fingertip, watching the redhead squirm.

"Of course not," she teased, "and the goose bumps upon your skin? Are you cold Mr. Browne?'

"Wench, alright, I confess! Now stop yer teasing before I jump from this bed!" she threatened, having no intention of doing so. Lydia giggled and returned to her lips, rewarding her for being honest. Alexia groaned and slid her hands down her spouse's back until she cupped her bottom. Both women's breathing caught at the sensation.

"So ye like that Sweet Lydia?" The dark haired woman nodded even as her torso began rocking against her larger body. The soft friction between them felt so wonderful that she never wished to stop. Alexia moaned, burying her fingers into the dark locks and bringing her full mouth back to her own. The kiss became primal, both seeking something from the other but not sure as to what. The kiss finally ended as both of them burned for air.

"Lydia, please, touch me!" Alexia begged.

"How, tell me what to do love, tell me how."

"It doesna matter sweet Lydia! Just do it!" She craved Lydia as she needed air to breathe. She didn't have the words to explain the intimacy she sought, only the desire to fulfill it.

Lydia in her innocence had no clue and her spouse wasn't much more experienced. Wanting to please her lover and friend, she began touching her gently, exploring her curiously. She watched her face, her body, and as her hands moved over her, she learned. How some touches made her squirm, others made her sigh with pleasure, and a different kind made her utter the Lord's name. Lydia became mesmerized in watching her features. Alexia's body still reacted to each stroke, but her face was calm and peaceful. Smiling, the seamstress leaned forward and brushed her lips.

"Would you touch me also?" Alexia didn't need to be asked twice. Settling Lydia on her back, she began her own foray. This was so much different than her time with Molly, but then again, she hadn't loved the camp follower. With her, it had been a rushed coupling in a tent with few niceties.

Now, she wanted to savor every moment. This wasn't about copulation, but connections. Every touch, every sigh and smile, brought them closer to one another's spirit.

Alexia took her hand and began kissing each fingertip, watching Lydia's eyes twinkle.

"Ye have strong hands my sweet Lydia, yet they be so much smaller than mine." Kissing her palm first, her lips began traveling slowly along her wrist and up her arm.

Lydia made soft mewling, finding the sensual caresses both exciting and relaxing at the same time. Reaching her neck, the seamstress could hear Alexia breathe in deeply before carefully nipping the skin. Lydia let out a small gasp and dug her fingers into muscled flesh.

The former soldier didn't need to be told that Lydia enjoyed what she was doing. When her tongue laved the bitten area, her spouse's entire body arched strongly against her, bringing them belly to belly. Growling her pleasure, Alexia felt herself becoming lost in passion's fire. Eagerly, her mouth explored Lydia's jaw and ear, gaining pleasure from her every response. Hands gripped her back fiercely, legs wrapped around her body, and the smaller woman was breathing hard and fast. Moving lower, hungry lips grazed soft peaks. A pouting nipple rose to greet her eager mouth. Alexia flicked it with her wet tongue, moaning as Lydia gritted out her name and pulled her head closer to the needy flesh.

The redhead took in as much as the peak as she could into her mouth, drawing on the sweet skin. Her lover bowed and writhed beneath her body, wild with the sensations overwhelming her. Alexia shifted, placing her powerful thigh between Lydia's as her mouth moved to the other breast. Heated wetness slicked her thigh, drawing out an appreciative whimper from the ex soldier.

Lydia lifted her pelvis and rubbed herself against the hard thigh, burning for some elusive goal. Her body was frantic because of the intense pleasure she was given. She wanted to plead for something, but she didn't know for what. Crying out to Alexia, she could only wring a single word from her lips. "Please!"

The mouth left her breasts and moved downward, pressing kisses along her belly. The thigh also left its place, making her whimper in disappointment as the sensations stopped. Teeth nipped her pelvic bone then licked away the slight pain. Lydia realized her fingers had tangled into her lover's hair, urging her downwards towards the throbbing ache below.

"Alexia! I need…I need…please!" she begged, lifting her hips higher. The seamstress' eyes were tightly closed, not seeing the uncertainty on her lover's face.

The redhead was inches from Lydia's hips and the scent of her arousal. Inexperienced, she wasn't sure what was possible between them, but Lydia's hips lifted, damp curls brushed her lips, bringing the scent and taste to them. Following an impulse driven by need, she dipped her tongue to the source of the musky scent.

Lydia cried out and lifted her hips. Fearing she caused her spouse pain, she drew back, only to be pulled downward again by her red hair that was held firmly in tight fists. Returning to the parted thighs, she dipped her tongue once more into the well of sweet moisture. Tasting her tangy flavor, Alexia became lost in the unique shapes and tastes of her Sweet Lydia.

Lydia was dying, and didn't care, for only the dead enjoyed the pleasures of Paradise. The probing tongue slid and caressed her, incredibly soft and warm. Her hips danced involuntarily as a tension built deep inside of her. Panting wildly, her fingers clenched at Alexia as something inside trembled and paused. Suddenly, everything shattered, crying out in both pleasure and disappointment. Lost in the aftershocks that left her mind stunned, she was unaware that Alexia had crawled up to her, taking her into her arms worriedly.

When she returned back from Paradise, she found herself wrapped lovingly in the nest of the redhead's arms, being comforted softly.

"Are ye alright Sweet Lydia?" Alexia asked in concern.

"Aye, never better. You didn't not tell me of the wonder between two people Alexia."

"I dinna ken it dear one. Twas nae like that before. Just wi' ye," her voice wondrous.

"Truly?" Lydia asked, thinking it over. "Perhaps it is different with each coupling,"

"I think it twas different because we love one another sweet Lydia. Surely God would only bless those who truly loved in this manner."

"Did you find pleasure in it when the woman from the camp touched you the same way?" Lydia asked, curious.

"She dinna touch me. I touched her and nothing more."

"Then you didn't find Paradise in her arms as I have with you?" she asked, surprised

"Nay, I enjoyed her pleasure in it, but twas all," the redhead explained.

Lydia turned within the larger woman's arms, gently urging her onto her back. "Then it is fine time for you to experience it for yourself." Seeking Alexia's mouth, she kissed her firmly. Surprised at the taste of her own passion upon her lips, her breathing turned ragged.

Her hand stroked the woman below her, finally settling on one generous breast. Drawn to them for some time, she couldn't help but moan as her hand kneaded the soft mound, feeling it overflow her small hand. Alexia's moan was muffled by her own mouth and she thrummed from the sound of it. Lydia felt a large hand covering her own as she squeezed the breast but it didn't guide her.

Thus encouraged, her fingers lightly took the pebbled nipple between them, pinching it softly. Alexia broke the kiss as her body arched high.

"Ye God and little fishies!" she shouted. Lydia chuckled and gave it another pinch, much enjoying the way her lover behaved.

A bolt of pure desire shot throughout her body each time Lydia performed her sweet torture.

"Ye are trying to kill me!" she complained with a strained laugh. The seamstress felt a giggle bubble up inside of her. "Nay," kissing the tip of her nose, "But I do want to send you to Paradise," she smiled. Pushing up a tad, she slid her body downward until her mouth could seek the breast's sister. Her lips found the peak and chased after as it hid in the soft cushion of Alexia's breast. Suckling upon it hard, the nipple slipped into her mouth and was greedily kept. She worried the nipple, pushing it roughly against her teeth with her tongue. Alexia's hands on her shoulders kept the slight woman from being flung from the bed as the redhead reacted, shouting the Lord's name.

Alexia was on fire. Her hips pressed at Lydia's leg, trying to ease the ache there. She needed more. Barely able to think, she took the hand at her breast away and guided it down to where she wanted it. Lydia lifted her mouth from her pleasing task and looked down,

"What would you have me do?"

"Touch me there, please!"

"Here?" Lydia asked as her fingers rubbed against slick flesh. The redhead didn't—couldn't answer. Her hips flew upwards, seeking relief from the need inside. Her body writhed from the gentle rubbing as she gasped and moaned. Her body sought the Paradise Lydia spoke of but it eluded her.

"I need…Lydia," remembering what she had once done to Molly, "put your fingers inside of me!"

"But…I shall hurt thee!" she said fearfully.

"Nay, I be not a virgin. Please Lydia!" Alexia reminded her, legs spreading wider.

Nervous fingers traced her opening and tentatively pressed inside a little. "More!"

Holding her breath, Lydia pushed two fingers deeper into her spouse, praying she caused her no harm. Alexia's hips rose to meet the inward thrust and moaned in ecstasy. Relieved that her action was welcomed, she slowly began gently thrusting them in and out. A steady motion began. Once comfortable with the rhythm and how Alexia moved with it, her lips sought out the other nipple and teased it.

Callused fingers began moving along her back as an encouraging monolog spilt from Alexia's lips. As time passed Lydia wondered why Alexia didn't yet find her Paradise. Looking up at her face she saw the redhead was somehow fighting it.

"Alexia, come here love," she whispered. Shifting her body, she drew the tall woman to her, rolling her onto her side, her flushed face in the crook of her neck. Lydia's free arm wrapped around her caringly, caressing her nape and hair. Alexia put her arm around loosely about her upper arm. Now settled comfortably, her fingers began their soft thrusting once more. The seamstress brushed soft kisses along Alexia's shoulder and neck, whispering tender words into her ear.

The powerful woman in her arms panted and whimpered, still fighting the ending to the sweet torment.

"Let it happen love, let it happen. Tis sweet, I promise you." The woman in her arms trembledyet couldn't quite let go. "I have you dearling, I'm with you, now and for always," her voice promised.

Lydia felt her spouse shatter and tumble over the crest they had both sought. Sobbing, Alexia clung to her tightly, seeking comfort even in the throes of passion. Kissing away her tears, Lydia held her gently and waited out the storm. When the larger woman took a deep breath and stopped shaking, Lydia withdrew her fingers.

"I'll be right back love." Standing, she poured some heated water into the basin. Washing her hands then wetting a cloth, she returned to their bed. She gently cleansed the limp woman and slipped the coverlets over her. Rinsing the cloth, she bathed her own self and got into bed. Alexia didn't move so she settled into her accustomed spot on the large woman's shoulder. Automatically, an arm wrapped around her and lips pressed a kiss to her brow.

"Alexia, do you-"

"Nay, not right now. I be as limp as that rag ye tossed into the basin," she murmured.

"Then sleep love, sleep."

The seamstress was the first to awaken. As the memories of the night before replayed in her mind, she smiled and cuddled closer to the warm woman who pillowed her. Her hands lazily caressed the redhead, just enjoying the freedom to do so. Her palm brushed over the soft breast and played with it, grinning as the nipple puckered at her touch. She pressed it down with her forefinger, watching it spring back up. Her pillow began bouncing.

"What are ye doing silly woman?" she grinned, running her large palm over Lydia's back and kissing her hair.

"Just playing. It's fun to watch it rise up like a loaf of bread."

"So I be yer food now wench?"

"Yes!" the smaller woman growled, pouncing on her spouse's breast enthusiastically with her mouth. She hungrily sucked and bit on it, the playfulness gone the moment she could hear Alexia's moan of pleasure as it was dragged out of her. Within seconds, the women were burning frantically out of control. Lydia took the other breast, suckling on it hard, craving every strangled cry her lover made. Her body thrashed under her. Driven with the need to feel her lover fully respond to her, her fingers followed a twitching stomach until she found the dampness she wanted.

Hips lifted, eager for her touch. Hard fingers slid roughly past wet curls and found the place she knew drove Alexia wild. Her fingers took control of the pleading woman, stroking her feverishly. Alexia was panting hard, her body out of control. Just as she was about to fly off into the heavens, the fingers stopped, hovering teasingly. Alexia begged for her to continue.

"Look at me love," Lydia's voice demanded gently. Alexia forced open her eyes, seeing the love she had wished for since the very beginning glowing in those amber eyes. "You're mine." Her honey voice asked and stated at the same time. Alexia nodded. "And I'm yours," she whispered as her fingers merely stroked her lightly. It was all it took. The redhead screamed out Lydia's name in pleasure, her soul scattering into the heavens from the intensity.

Caring arms were holding her when she opened her eyes. It took long minutes before she had the breath to speak.

"Aye, ye are trying to kill me," she grinned. Lydia laughed and ruffled her damp hair.

They were not quite sure how they did it, but they were both crammed into the small oaken tub. The bathwater threatened to slosh over the rim with every movement. The women giggled as they attempted to bathe one another.

"Have you thought of what we shall do Alexia?" Lydia asked as Alexia soaped her belly.

"Och, not really. I was too worried about what ye wanted to do," she confessed.

Hearing something hiding the words, she twisted her body to look at the ex-soldier's face.

"What I wanted to do?" she asked gently. "Like what?"

Alexia's face turned pale. "I was worried that ye wanted to part ways," Alexia whispered. Lydia sighed.

"That was my fault Alexia. I never told you how I felt before last night."

"I could hae asked," she reminded her, "but I didn't. Twas too much of a coward I suppose. I dinna want to hear it if ye wanted away from me. The verra idea nearly killed me inside." Tears rimmed in her eyes.

"Never, dearling," she vowed. "God brought us together, and until he takes one of us home, we'll stay together. And thank you, Alexia."

"For what sweet Lydia?"

"For bringing me home to Him. For your belief that He is a loving God. I grew up thinking I should be afraid of him instead of being one of His beloved children. My faith has become a comfort, not a rod of punishment to fear. You gave me that."

"Ye are most welcomed sweet Lydia," giving her a warm hug.

The mood became too solemn. "Brr, the water is turning cold. Help me rinse off."

Taking a bucket from near the stove, Alexia poured clean water over her spouse. Lydia raised both hands to push away the wet hair from her face. Naughty hands immediately took possession of her breasts.

"Beast! Have you no shame?" she laughed.

"Nay, and ye love me anyway," she teased, bending down to nibble on an ear. Lydia leaned back, giving her lover better access, then squealed when they suddenly fell backwards. The oaken tub had fallen apart on one side, toppling the bathers and tossing the water across the room.

"We need a new tub," Lydia grinned.

"Aye, a larger one," Alexia deadpanned.

"James is asking everyone if they want to stay on," Lydia told Alexia. "although he isn't offering nearly what Jonathon had promised you," she warned.

"What good is working for so little? I had hoped to open my own shop eventually, but Allen will be leaving for England on the first ship. I'm not fully trained yet."

"Could you find work with a blacksmith in Boston?"

"Probably, if I paid him an apprenticeship fee." Alexia sighed heavily. "But I hate large towns. They stink and there is no room to move about. I suppose I could just become a farmer."

"I can't see you being content as one," Lydia said honestly. The redhead nodded, glad her spouse didn't push her in that direction.

"Has there ever been something you wanted to do love?" the seamstress asked, curious. Then watched as her friend blushed. "What? Tell me! It can't be that bad," she asked, piqued.

"Well, I always wanted to…well, always wanted to learn how to make church windows."

"Stained glass? Why does that make you blush Alexia?" The large redhead shrugged uncomfortably.

"Don't tell me, your loving father." Lydia knew from her friend's stories how he would mock every dream she had. The pious woman would smack the man soundly if he were still alive.

She sat down and rested her cheek on Alexia's shoulder. "I think it is a grand dream. I say we borrow a carriage and go into Boston. There may be a glass worker there. It couldn't harm anything to speak with him," she suggested, raising her eyebrows, silently asking what her mate thought.

"I doubt I could grow rich doing it," Alexia said nervously.

"I don't care. I'll sew for extra money. We may not be rich, but we'll be together." She said simply, taking away the excuse.

They visited the bank where Jonathon had opened an account for each of them, withdrawing enough to stay for a few days in the town. Never before having so much money, Alexia stared at it.

"This is more money than my father ever earned in his life," she said dumbfounded. "Do we really need this much?"

"Not really, but I want you to buy some new clothing before you speak with the glassworker," Lydia explained. Her spouse looked strong and capable, dressed as she had always done. But the seamstress wanted the glass worker to see Alexia as refined as well. She knew well the gentle and dedicated person she was. Lydia knew naught of glassblowing but could imagine it took both traits to work with glass.

Nodding in resignation at the idea of shopping, the redhead held out her arm to her wife.

Alexia stepped out of the dressing chamber, the expression on her face bemused.

"What do ye think Mrs. Browne?" she asked, bowing slightly.

Lydia's wide grin was infectious. "You look like a young dandy in those clothes. La, look at thee!" Alexia chuckled and looked into the large looking glass.

Before her stood a lad dressed in a costly navy blue coat and breeches. Normally only the wealthier owned clothing of such a color. Blue, red, and pure black were costly because of the dye. Beneath her outer coat was a waist coat of pale cream, embroidered with delicate flowers. Her stockings matched the vest, and upon her feet, newly polished shoes gleamed.

"Quite striking Mr. Browne," the clothier said, brushing off a piece of lint from her coat.

"Tis time I think, to pay a call upon the glazier—before I lose my nerve."

The glazier, PhineasDouglas, stared at the towering boy, wondering why he thought he'd make a good apprentice to such work. His hands were large and rough, no doubt clumsy as well.

"Nay, I currently have no apprentice, but have thee no other work? Thou look like a strapping lad."

"Mr. Douglas, I came to the Colonies as an indentured servant two years ago. My master was having me learn smithing until he recently died. It was nae my work of choice." Alexia saw that the man wasn't willing to take her on and changed her tactics.

"Let me be honest wi' ye. Since I was a small lad, I have been in love with stained glass. I understand ye do little of it, but I would like to learn from ye. I hae the means to pay my apprenticeship fees. I will work hard and diligently for ye. Once I am a journeyman, I willna compete wi' ye but move to another place to specialize in colored glass."

The redheaded lad waited patiently as Phineas tucked his chin low, considering her words. He did want an apprentice. The last two boys proved unfit for such work. Alex Browne was a bit older than most new apprentices, but he was wed, and perhaps more settled.He made a decision and looked up.

" I cannot offer more than a small salary and housing for thee and your wife. There are quarters above not in use. I will give thee four months to prove yourself Mr. Browne. Either thee have the talent for such work or thee do not. Only time will tell. In addition, I could use what skills thee have in iron working. Some prefer iron to wood frames for their glass plating. I possess a small forge in the rear of the shop and I could easily acquire an anvil. You will be expected to work from sunup to sundown, with the Sabbath free to do as thee will. The workdays during winter shall be shorter of course. I will not burn costly candles after dark unless necessary.

"If thee prove skilled enough at the end of the four months, I will begin teaching thee the art of stain glass. Is this satisfactory Mr. Browne?"

"Aye! And thank ye Mr. Douglas!" Alexia gushed gratefully.

"Fine. How much time do thee need to make arrangements to arrive?"

"Perhaps five days time Mr. Douglas. We must pack our possessions and rent a wagon before returning to Boston."

"Hmm, and it will take at least a day to prepare the quarters upstairs. I'm afraid they have been unused for several years."

"Well, my wife and I could begin cleaning them this afternoon. We need not leave Boston until the morn." Alexia suggested.

"Tis fine with me. I will open the windows and shutters to air the rooms. Until this afternoon Mr. Browne."

After being introduced to his new employer, Lydia eagerly went up the stairs to inspect their new home. With them, they had brought buckets, rags, scrub brushes, and soap. Alexia joined her a few moments later, walking through what was actually one large room divided by a single wall.

Hearing the floor creak, she excused herself to fetch her wooden tool box from their wagon. She nailed down the squeaky floorboards and looked for any other repairs that would need done. One shutter hung haphazardly and it too was fixed.

Putting away her tools, she began helping Lydia scrub the rooms down. Both were pleased to see that the chimney had been recently cleaned and there was a place to install the small stove that was in their cottage. A counter with cabinets was on one side, providing them with a place to prepare food and store utensils. Shelves on the wall to hold plates, cups, and other small items. The rooms would be cozy except for the heat of summer, but with windows that swung open, it would be tolerable.

Phineas came up the stairs to view their handiwork. "I had forgotten how nice these rooms were until now." He peered at the freshly scrubbed floors and looked up at the couple. "I spoke with the Wainwright up the street. He suggested renting the wagon and horses from him. That way, thee not need to return to the country to return them. One of his stable hands will take your other wagon to the Waller property for thee and ride back on the spare horse he'll take along with him. He'll do it for 35 pence if thee think it fair."

Alexia thought it over. A mere ha' penny would buy a loaf of bread. Considering her options, she thought it fair. She would have his wagon and horses for 3-5 days and he'd lack his stable hand for two. In addition, she wouldn't have to find a way to return the wagon. Nodding in agreement, she told the Glazier that she would speak with him shortly and pay him in advance.

The tall redhead gave the teary Abigail a final hug goodbye. The woman clung to her, knowing she'd miss the gentle lad. Alexia pulled back and wiped a tear streak from her face.

"Now, I dinna want ye to remarry for less than love Mrs. Waller. I want ye happy." The former servant thought she deserved it. Besides, men still outnumbered women by quite a lot, so she could afford to be choosey. The older woman nodded and turned to Lydia, embracing the slight young woman and kissing her cheek.

Alexia helped her spouse into the wagon and climbed up into the seat, grabbing the reins. With a final wave to everyone, they left their old life behind and looked forward to the new.

Lydia paid the sawyer's son his five pence for his help carrying items into the loft. He bowed pertly and ran down the street, no doubt to drink away his earnings at the tavern. Mostly settled, she and Alexia were planning a trip to the market down the road. Since Alexia was drawing a salary instead of working for boarding along with being taught, they had to supply their own food. Her wages would let them skim by but they agreed her own income would be for saving or small luxuries.

Already, due to Mr. Douglas' wagging tongue, people have approached Lydia for sewing orders. Ready made clothing from England was costly. Most households had their own small loom for making cloth from flax, but few had the talents for more than simple patterns. Once worried that she would be bored during the day, she quickly realized she would be meeting people almost on a daily basis. Women were scarce and tended to meet regularly.

She collected her marketing basket and went down the steps. Alexia had already received a key to the shop from Mr. Douglas, giving them freedom of the building. The Glazier had admitted he was grateful they now lived in the building. The presence of a former soldier would prevent thievery. While they had been gone, Phineas had pegs driven into the walls to hold a musket and powder that he had provided, just to be cautious.

Alexia locked the shop door and held her arm out to Lydia. They strolled eastward, towards the market. They wanted naught but simple foods for neither of them had the energy for cooking. Looking over the available fare, they chose bread, cheese, apples, and a crock of sweet butter. They had brought a few food items with them, mostly dry goods such as flour, salt, tea, and crocked foods that had been packed in straw.

Lydia spotted a small cart with household notions. She handed the basket to Alexia, who was looking over an assortment of leather goods. Peering at some coveted bone needles, she was joined by another customer who drew her into conversation. She was perhaps in her mid thirties, her shape plump from many years of childbirth no doubt. Her pale hair was tucked under a cap and she wore a light gray dress.

"You must be Mrs. Browne. I had planned on visiting you in a few days, after you settled. I'm Mary Elizabeth Sullivan," she stated.

"Pleased to meet you Mrs. Sullivan."

"Mary, please. And may I call you Lydia? It is so nice to see another adult woman in our small township. Most females are but children or just passing through. The women servants don't socialize since their time is spoken for. I understand your husband and you were working for Jonathon Waller before he passed away, may he rest in peace.'

"Yes, and since he freed his servants from their contracts in his will, we decided to move here."

Mary pointed towards Alexia, "Is that your husband?" Lydia nodded with a smile. "My, he is quite tall, and that scar makes him appear quite fierce!"

The younger woman laughed. "One look into his green eyes and you'll never fear him again," she said fondly.

"Ah, a gentle soul." Looking upon the younger woman's face, she knew without a doubt Lydia loved the red haired youth. As they watched him, Alexia turned and sent a heartfelt smile across the distance between them. Neither of them noticed anything else, as though they were alone in the world.

Basking in the glow of their love, Mary grinned, pleased to see such devotion between a wedded couple. Alexia's eyes never left Lydia's as she began walking towards her, joining the two of them. She bent down to kiss the seamstress' cheek fondly and looked towards the other woman.

"Mary Elizabeth Sullivan, this is my husband, Alexander Browne."

"Tis a pleasure to meet ye Mrs. Sullivan," Alexia said with a smile, bowing politely.

"Ah, a Scot! Lydia was no doubt snared by that lilt in your voice Mr. Browne."

Alexia felt a blush flame her cheeks. Her spouse chuckled and patted her arm fondly. Mrs. Sullivan was a hoyden. Her husband probably had his hands full with this outspoken wench, Alexia thought helplessly, wondering how often she'd be blushing in this woman's presence.

"And I see what you mean about those green eyes," she added. Alexia's looked down at her wife, wondering what in Glory Be they had spoken about. Lydia shrugged innocently.

"Mrs. Browne, why do I hae this idea that my dignity would be better served if I were to hide from the two of ye?" The tone was teasing rather than angry, so Lydia knew Alexia wasn't offended.

"Do not fret Mr. Browne, your wife was telling me of your gentle eyes. I meant no offence, do accept my apology." The woman appeared contrite but the sparkle of mischiefin her eyes betrayed her.

Laughing with good humor, Alexia told the woman what she thought. "Mrs. Sullivan, I believe ye and my wife will undoubtedly get into some sort of trouble in the future. I just pray that it will be slight." Bending down, she kissed her wife and suggested that the three of them return to their new home. Mary agreed to stay just a short while, knowing they must be tired.

"Not too tired," Alexia whispered naughtily. Lydia shushed her.

Mary looked over their small quarters, finding it charming. It wasn't overcrowded with possessionsbut neither did it seem barren. Lydia had decorated with the curtains they brought and had thrown a gaily colored rag rug over the largest portion of the floor. Matthew had given them a tatted tablecloth that his mother had made, softening the dark wood of the table.

Sitting down at it, she noticed Alexia putting a kettle on for tea. It wasn't often she saw a married man do domestic chores. Lydia joined her at the table as Alex put the tea leaves into a pewter pot to steep.

"Lydia, if he can cook also, don't speak of it. You don't want every unwed woman in the parish trying to steal him away," she teased.

Alexia bent down to once more kiss her wife. "Impossible, for no one could compare to my Sweet Lydia" she said, delighted to finally cause the olive-skinned woman to turn pink—even if she had meant every word.

"Mercy, he is romantic, can cook, and sweet natured. Lydia, keep him in your sight at all times!" Mary teased, fanning herself with her hand.

In spite of Alexia's earlier naughty promised, she fell asleep the moment they snuggled up together. Lydia couldn't say she was disappointed, for she was weary too. She was asleep within seconds.

The redhead awoke in the early morning hours. The sky had not yet lightened so Alexia needn't rush. Pulling Lydia a bit closer, she buried her face in Lydia's dark hair. The seamstress mumbled in her sleep and rolled over, sliding her warm thigh between Alexia's, giving the larger woman ideas.

Telling herself to behave, she closed her eyes and tried to go back to sleep. An arm circled her waist. Convinced Lydia was sleeping soundly, Alexia kept her eyes closed. A hand drifted along her spine and settled on her bottom. The larger woman sighed heavily. Then the small hand tickled the sensitive buttocks.

Alexia quickly reacted, rolling onto her back to protect her most ticklish area. Lydia giggled and crawled on top of her, seeking her lips.

Married for nearly eight months, they were familiar with each other's unspoken needs. The kiss was lingering and soft, the type shared when affection was the only goal. Alexia curbed the impulse to arouse her wife, keeping her touches innocent in spite of the hunger she felt. Unaware that she was doing it, she spread her legs and cradled Lydia's petite body against her own. Now intimately connected, Lydia realized Alexia's wants.

The kiss changed. Lydia opened her lips, slipping her tongue into Alexia's mouth. The redhead reacted instantly, her hands tracing the smaller woman's body. The seamstress broke the kiss and sat up, straddling Alexia's torso. She wasn't truly in the mood to be touched sexually, her menses was too close, but she did want please her spouse. Alexia looked up, trying to gauge her moods.

"Just let me touch you dearling. That's all I want."

"But I want to touch ye too," she pled quietly.

"I know, but this morning, allow me to please you. I'm cramping today and you know how I am." Her hands began stroking the redhead's breasts, but the larger woman stopped her.

"Nay sweet Lydia. If ye dinna want it as well, my pleasure would be less." She sat up, wrapping her arms around the small woman. Her large palm settled on the small of Lydia's back, feeling the tension there. "I'll put some water on to heat and make ye some willow bark tea. That should ease the pain," she offered.

Lydia wanted to cry, not from the rejection, but from the caring in Alexia's voice. She moved back into the bed and watched Alexia walk nude to the small stove and light a fire. She filled the cast iron kettle with water from the water crock and placed it over the heat. She slipped back under the coverlets and rolled Lydia to her side, spooning behind her. Her large hand stroked her spouse's belly, easing some of the discomfort.

The seamstress sniffled, overwhelmed by the gentleness and caring she received. A kiss brushed her neck as Alexia comforted her with words whispered into her ear. A tear fell and landed on the pillow. They snuggled a bit longer then the redhead got up, donning only a shirt. She set a cast iron pot on top of it with a bit of water. She cored a few apples and filled them with nuts and spices. Placing them in the pot, she fixed the tea and took it to Lydia.

She fixed herself a pot of regular tea and set it to steep. Peering through the slats of the shutter, she knew she had about a ha' hour before needing to go downstairs. After washing at the basin, she began dressing. Alexia checked the apples and found them nearly done. She sliced some bread, applied some butter and preserved strawberry jam, and scooped out an apple onto a plate. Lydia tried to get up but was told to stay there. The large woman brought her the plate and fork to eat in the comfort of their bed, piling the pillows behind her.

"You are spoiling me," she smiled gratefully.

"Nay, just cherishing ye as the good minister instructed us at our wedding."

"Mmm, I wish he instructed us to kiss at least every half hour," she teased.

Alexia grinned and kissed her wife tenderly. She straightened and fetched her own meal. She had to move along. Eating quickly then dressing, she gave Lydia one last kiss before going down the stairs.

Noticing Mr. Douglas hadn't yet arrived, she unlocked the door and opened the shutters to let in light. Feeling nervous, the redhead decided to sweep the floors to keep occupied. Finding the broom, she began steering the piles of dust towards the front door. She was just sweeping the last of it into the road when Phineas arrived.

"Good morning to thee Mr. Browne. Industrious I see." He removed his outer coat and hung it on a peg. He indicated a stool at a work bench so Alexia sat down.

"Did thee sleep well?" Alexia nodded. Phineas looked around. "I can smell your breakfast. I'm sure it is a comfort to have a wife to care for thee, although I've avoided the state of matrimony myself," he winked.

"Actually, I made our morning meal. Lydia felt a bit poorly this morning. She ought to feel better later on," she explained.

"She's not with child is she?" thinking perhaps she was suffering from morning sickness.

"Nay, but females tend to have their own delicacies." Alexia's master nodded knowingly. Changing the subject, he took his apprentice on a tour of the shop.

Phineas Douglas, although it was his idea to send prospective customers to Mrs. Browne in order to keep her from out of his shop, was stunned. Now, instead of having one lone woman wandering in on occasion, he now had many. No longer did they meet elsewhere for their sewing circles.

He listened to the laughter from above, wondering what they could find so hilarious. His apprentice seemed oblivious to them, working quietly on his duties. Master Glazier Douglas sighed greatly. As annoying as the weekly meetings were, he couldn't deny that his business had increased. The ladies would often stop and gaze at his wares, buying baubles and bottles when they could afford it.

The redhead in the corner watched several of Lydia's friends from the sewing circle come down the stairs. One was Martha Greer. Widow Greer actually—who had hopes for finding husband number three. Alexia hid a smirk as the woman subtly demanded Phineas' attention. She leaned forward, moving herself closer to the middle-aged glass worker.

Biting her lip, Alexia couldn't but help admire the woman's technique. She fingered Master Douglas' sleeve and cooed over its tattered edges sympathetically. Perhaps she and the others could mend it next week—a small thank you for his patience and generosity. The widow patted his hand and left the beguiled glazier staring after her. Should she warn him or let him fall prey to his doom like every other man has done since time began?

Phineas cleared his throat and walked over to his apprentice, checking his work. Mr. Browne was making glass beads. They were used by those wanting to trade for items from the Indians, such as food and furs. The older man picked up several from the bowl, noting that they were uniform in appearance. Grunting his approval he went about his business, and wondering if Mrs. Greer would care to take a carriage ride come spring.

The four months had passed and Alexia nervously awaited Master Douglas' word on her apprenticeship. He had not yet said aye or nay. Her anxiety kept her from sleep, often staring out the windows into the night. Lydia tried to soothe her fears to little avail. Even her sweet caresses couldn't ease the knot of tension that had become a part of her.

"Alexia, come to bed."

"I be nae sleepy lass," she whispered back into the darkness.

"I do not care. Get into bed before you catch a chill," she ordered firmly. The redhead felt a smile tug at her mouth from the imperious tone. She walked to the bed and lifted the coverlets.

"Take off your nightshirt dearling," Lydia suggested even as she too slipped her long garment from her own body. Alexia slipped under the covers and snuggled close to her wife, humming in pleasure at her welcoming warmth.

"Mmm, ye be nice and warm," the redhead murmured, nuzzling her nose into her spouse's neck. Lydia chuckled softly and wrapped her arm around Alexia's large shoulders.

As Alexia settled into caring arms, her eyes gazed over the shadowed landscape of her lover's body. Faint light from the night sky caused her skin to glow palely. Alexia let her artistic eyes roam pleasurably along each curve and valley until the urge to explore them became too much. She pulled one hand from beneath the covers to trace the skin with her forefinger. Brushing the skin lightly, her finger followed the ridge of Lydia's shoulder, admiring the delicate strength she possessed.

Sighing in a sensual haze, Lydia closed her eyes and relished the gentle exploration. Her spouse often felt the need to just spend time touching, being intimate without asking for more. Once she had learned this, she could allow herself to just experience these moments without becoming aroused—most of the time.

This wasn't one of those times. The smaller woman felt a quiver along her skin and felt her nipples harden as a warm finger grazed down the center of her chest. Lydia knew Alexia had seen her reaction because she heard the slight increase in her breathing although the touches didn't become more aggressive. Instead, they turned more sensual. The wandering finger made its way to one stiff peak, teasing closely to it. Lydia's fingers combed through the red hair under her hand, clenching with anticipation. After several teasing circles, the petite woman arched upwards, urging her spouse to stop playing and just touch her.

But the ex-soldier didn't want to hurry. She felt a slumbering need to be in control overcome her. Unlike Lydia, who could become a bit rough when she was highly aroused, Alexia's approach was different. She sometimes wanted to be in control but with exquisite gentleness.

Pushing herself upwards, she searched for Lydia's full lips and began kissing her quietly, in tiny soft brushes and nibbles. Lydia pressed herself closer, wanting more solid contact.

Not to be rushed, the larger redhead took her spouse's wrists and eased them back until she had them pinned against the mattress. She kept up the feathery soft kisses, almost stopping to smile when Lydia tried half-heartedly to break her hold.

The smaller woman was frustrated, yes, but knew her lover would be nothing but gentle. Never once in all their time together had she ever forced her into doing anything she was uncomfortable with. She also knew that Alexia derived an intense delight during these times. 'I feel a special peace inside when I give you pleasure,' she had whispered one night in their cottage.

The seamstress also knew her lover liked at least a token resistance to fulfill the desire to be in charge. Well, having a lover with the patience of Job provided the resistance. Lydia was often convinced she would go mad with need at times. She grinned and arched her breasts higher to rub against Alexia's. The larger woman told her to behave as one palm was placed against her belly to hold her still.

The overly gentle kisses continued for a while before Alexia's tongue began teasing her, tracing her inner lips with the tip. A moan escaped from the pinned woman as her hips attempted to rise. Held firmly, the seamstress raised her free leg and hooked her calf behind a strong thigh, pulling her lover closer. The warm hand left her belly and stroked the olive skinned thigh and hip. For a brief moment, Lydia believed she had convinced her spouse to step up the pace, but the idea was dashed.

Alexia used her grip on her thigh to tug her over onto her belly and covered her prone body with her own. The smaller woman hummed because she loved how it felt to be blanketed by her strong frame. She felt her long hair being brushed aside and lips nuzzling her nape. She could feel the shivers start from head to toes as sensitive lips brushed along her hairline and travel slowly to her ear. Alexia's warm breath on her neck made her quiver and grip the bedding. The redhead softly urged her to relax before taking her lobe and softly worrying it between her lips.

Relaxing wasn't on her mind, not when each gentle tug was echoed lower on her body. Her breathing became rapid and her hips wanted to move. She whimpered and gripped the bedding tighter.

"Shh, tis alright love, relax," Alexia said soothingly as her lips placed soft kisses along her back. Lydia couldn't stop the soft sounds of pleasure that kept escaping her lips. Her body thrummed from the loving caresses as her passion grew. In the back of her mind, she was amazed she was able to remain still, until a tongue teased the dip of her lower back. Lydia gasped out in pleasure and writhed as the wet tongue journeyed along her bottom and hips. Panting hard, she shifted her hips and moaned out her lover's name.

The urge to spin around and grab her lover and ravish her was growing strong, but it was forgotten as fingers caressed her lightly along her inner thighs. Praying that Alexia wouldn't torment her too long, she parted them instinctively. The fingers stroked her softly, never quite reaching where Lydia needed them.

"Please!" she begged, then almost wept as the fingers left her.

"Shh, come here," Alexia urged her as she placed her strong hands around her hips and guided her backwards. Lydia found herself on her knees and sitting on the larger woman's kneeling thighs. Gentle arms surrounded her as lips nuzzled her neck. "I hae ye Sweet Lydia, I hae ye."

The seamstress felt her breasts being cupped and caressed. Lydia placed her hands on top of them as her head drooped backwards to rest on a broad shoulder. Callused thumbs began flicking her hard peaks and Lydia jumped as the touches caused her entire body to respond. Urging her on between gasping for air, she groaned as fingers carefully played with her dark nipples. It wasn't enough. Using her own hands, she guided Alexia's fingers, showing her what she so badly needed. The strong fingers touched her more firmly but it made the seamstress ache for more. She was near her limit.

"Touch me please!" she begged, the urgency in her voice apparent. One hand left her breasts and slid along her belly. Her thighs parted as the gentle hand found her heated center and caressed it fully. Lydia's body rocked against the woman loving her so tenderly, her eyes tightly closed. She was so close. Alexia whispered soft words into her ear but Lydia couldn't hear them over the pounding of her heart. Her body was trembling and shifting uncontrollably as she neared the paradise she craved. Then she found it, crying out in pleasure as the sensation sent exquisite shocks throughout her body. She could only slump limply against her lover, who held her securely within her arms and whispered soothing words into her ear.

As soon as Lydia recovered, Alexia helped her under the covers and spooned behind her. The seamstress felt her spouse let out a deep breath. Within seconds, the redhead was asleep, causing the smaller woman to chuckle softly.

Mary Elizabeth poured them each a cup of tea and added a bit of honey to her own. She glanced at her brood of children through the open window, making sure the scamps weren't into too much mischief. With their chores finished, she allowed them to play outdoors. The warm spring day after a wet and miserable winter was welcomed and enjoyed. John was chasing his wooden hoop as his little brother Matthew ran after him. The oldest, Martha, sat under a tree, reading quietly, her little face in serious concentration. Mary Elizabeth sighed. How did a woman such as she give birth to such a studious and serious child?

"I worry about her sometimes," not realizing she spoke the thought aloud.

"Why Mary? Martha seems such a well behaved girl."

"Lydia, my daughter is too serious for her age. Look at her, studying on such a beautiful day. She ought to be having fun, or maybe visiting friends. An education is fine to a point for a woman, but it has no real value. All too soon, she'll meet a young man and marry, have children of her own, and wonder where time went."

"I was just like her a few years ago. I was an only child and never was permitted to play."

Mary laughed at the idea, hard pressed to see this lively young woman as dull and studious. "Lydia, you are warm as a sunny day and make me laugh. I can't picture you as a serious child."

"Oh, but I was. It wasn't until I met Alex that I learned to laugh. S-, he's a child at heart. Somehow, despite his troubled past, he finds joy in small things."

"And in spite of working long hours, manages to keep you smiling," she grinned, watching the young woman blush. "My dear, there's no need to be prudish around me. I think I know how children are brought into the world. I'm just amazed the two of you haven't had any," she said, not directly asking, but giving the seamstress an opportunity to talk.

"I doubt there will be any Mary," Lydia said sadly. She and Alexia already agreed on an excuse for it and she gave it to her friend, hating to lie. "Alex had the swelling sickness just before coming to the Colonies. He was told children were unlikely because it struck him so severely."

"You knew this before your marriage?"

"Yes, but I didn't care. By then, I already loved him. If children weren't in God's plans for us, we would accept our lot. Perhaps we will adopt one day, once we establish our own lives."

"You'd make fine parents Lydia, I'm sure of it."

A rapid knock ended their conversation. Mary Elizabeth opened the door, seeing Alex standing there, holding a covered basket.

"Is my wife here Mrs. Sullivan?"

"Yes, do come in Mr. Browne." Mary held the door open, curious.

Alexia grinned and rushed inside looking for her spouse. Spotting her sitting on the padded bench, she sat next to her, kissing her cheek.


"Master Douglas hae gotten a bit of spring fever and closed the shop for the day. I thought we'd take advantage of the sunshine and packed a picnic dinner for us. Care to join me Mrs. Browne?"

The seamstress smiled hugely. "I'd be happy to Mr. Browne. Mary Elizabeth, you will excuse us?"

"Of course dear, enjoy your afternoon. And Lydia, watch out for that charming rogue of yours, I believe he has plans for you," she teased, laughing as both of them turned predictably pink.

The redhead had borrowed a carriage from the Wainwright along with directions to a nice location several miles outside of the community. The jingle of the horse's rigging and the clop clop of its hooves were the only sounds that competed with the birdsong. The couple sat contentedly in the carriage, drinking in the warmth and beauty of the spring day.

Lydia pointed to a nearby tree, where a gray squirrel shook its tail in alarm at their intrusion. Alexia grinned and mockingly tipped her hat at the irate creature. It scurried up the tree and disappeared. A few minutes later, the apprentice spotted the twin pines and boulder that marked the hardly used road she sought.

It led to a farm that was uninhabited for the inheritors to the small estate lived in England and had no intention of moving to the Colonies. It was for sale, but as yet, no one had purchased it. The couple looked around, charmed by the small farm. Very little of the forest had been cut down, leaving the property surrounded by shady trees and fields of wildflowers. The only land touched had been about two acres to the east. A small wooden cabin sat beneath a large willow tree.

"It is beautiful," Lydia sighed.

"Aye, like the garden of Eden," the redhead replied reverently. They looked at one another, feeling a connection as the same thought occurred to them both.

"I wonder how much they want for it?" Alexia asked.

They sat onnude on a woolen blanket that they had draped over a large flat stone next to the small pond. The women had eaten their dinner of fruit, cured ham, and bread. It hadn't taken long for the couple to give in to their desires and had made love under the shade of a large tree. Now feeling lazy, they watched a heron wade among the cattails as it hunted for its supper. Dipping its head, the heron pulled out a small fish then paused.

Alexia froze. The bird had sensed something.


Alexia twisted her body, looking all around her as she cursed under her breath.

"What is it?" Lydia asked, grabbing her shift.

"I don't know. Something-" the redhead jumped to her feet and grabbed her musket. The ex soldier spun and aimed the rifle towards the moving shadow.

Lydia had never seen this side of her friend. The woman held the weapon steady, her entire body alert. Holding her shift to her breast, the seamstress tried to see what Alexia was aiming at. All she saw were shadows in the dense trees and bushes. Perhaps it had been just an animal foraging there. Then she saw a movement. A figure stepped out from the shadows and stood there silently. The seamstress fought down the scream that wanted to come out of her as the terror from her childhood emerged.

A native stood there, dressed in traditional clothing. This wasn't one of the prayer Indians, who had converted to Christ. He wore nothing more than a skin cloth about his waist and matching shoes. Beads hung around his neck and he carried an unnotched bow and quiver. He studied both of them for a moment and took a step closer.

"I think that is quite far enough my friend." The native stopped and remained still. At least he understood English, the redhead thought. "Now, would ye like to explain why ye were spying upon us?"

The former soldier saw the native's lips quirk with amusement and his dark eyes making a point of looking at her from head to toe. Alexia felt a blush burning her cheeks. She had forgotten she was naked. Well, it was too late for modesty. She couldn't hold a musket and dress at the same time. She could hear Lydia slipping into her clothing behind her.

"A damned peeping Tom. I ought to-"

"My name is Waschteka, not Tom." The man said mildly. "I was not spying. I hunt."

"I didn't know there were natives this close to Boston," Alexia said, wondering where he had come from.

"We travel each spring to the ocean, to the shores that are ours by right," he informed her.

"Where are the rest of yer people?" Alexia asked loudly.

The man pointed with his chin. Both women looked past him and saw several people kneeling behind the bushes. Most of them were children. The man motioned them to come closer. The younger children were as naked as Alexia. One older girl and a woman were dressed in animal skin dresses and leggings. One boy looked up at them bashfully, charming them with his shy smile. The former soldier lowered her weapon and donned her shirt and britches.

"Our people are there," the man said, pointing over the tree-lined hill. "We did not know this place was in use. We will travel further to rest." Waschteka said apologetically.

"There is no need to move yer people Wash..Washtok, er—what was yer name again?"

"Waschteka," he said carefully so she'd understand.

"Waschteka, we do not own this land. The owners are far away and would'na care if ye stayed here a day or two." She reassured him. The man let out his breath, relieved.

Lydia watched as the shy boy walked up to them. He seemed curious about their clothing, watching as they dressed. Waschteka also watched them, then realized one of the women was putting on men's clothing.

"You are female, yet you dress as a man. Why is this?" he asked.

"It is a long and sad tale friend. But please, it is one that cannot be told to the English. It is a secret." Alexia explained, hoping the Indian understood and would remain silent about his adventure with two naked Colonists.

The Indian smiled widely. "But we would love to hear this tale. Come to our camp. We will share our food and tell our stories," he invited them.

The women exchanged glances. Alexia thought Lydia looked pale and hadn't said a word since Waschteka stepped out of the shadows. She had spent her entire childhood hearing how badly her mother had been treated by one of the natives. Now she was standing within a few feet of those like him. Lydia had to be terrified. Alexia rubbed her back gently, giving her silent support. Perhaps this would be a good thing. They seemed nice enough and perhaps given the chance, Lydia would realize her heritage wasn't a curse. She just needed some good experiences to balance out the bad.

"We can join you for a short time. We must return to our home before dark." Their new acquaintance smiled and spoke his native language to the children, who cheered happily. They took their hands and led them along the way.

Food and drink was passed around. They settled comfortably onto their blanket and were promptly joined by several children. One girl about three years of age crawled up onto Alexia's lap. Many smiled, knowing children were usually good judges of people. They were eager to hear their story. Waschteka volunteered to translate their words since many didn't not speak English, or too little to understand much. Alexia cleared her throat.

"My name is Alexia and my companion is Lydia. I come from a land far across the ocean called Scotland. For many years, my people were ruled by men from another land. We did not like this." Alexia paused, allowing the man to translate. Several heads nodded, understanding the concept. When many of their people died from foreign sickness, their numbers grew so few that they had been forced to pay tribute to others.

"One day, the worst of these men came to our home and killed my family. They had beaten me badly, leaving me for dead, and burned our home. I was alone. I traveled westward, hoping to find my mother's people but found no one.

"I met a friend who was like me, alone and without family. We traveled together. We decided to join a group of people who had chosen a new leader for Scotland. But I was a woman, and not allowed to fight. So I dressed as a man and they dinna know.

"Those who had ruled over us dinna like our choosing our own leader, and sent soldiers to fight against us. Many died and I was one of many that were captured. I couldna tell them I was a woman, so I remained silent. Those of us taken captive were sent away and sold as slaves. I was brought to these lands." The Wampanoags sat there, enraptured by her story.

"My owner was a good man, with a kind wife. He wanted me happy, so he suggested my taking Lydia," she pointed to her spouse with a grin, "as my wife. They dinna know I was a woman, but I couldna tell them. Lydia knew it but still said yes, not wanting me to be alone anymore. We became family and were set free. No one knows among our people. If they knew, we would be taken away from one another." She explained simply, taking Lydia's hand. Waschteka could see the love between them. Their bond was strong.

There was much rumbling among the natives as they spoke to each other. Alexia didn't know that her story, although it would be considered bizarre to Europeans, was one familiar to the Wampanoag. Slaves were often captive enemies taken during raids and such, but unlike the slavery among the whites, the American natives were known to adopt their slaves. They made them members of their families and tribe. The former slaves would marry and live among them even if the opportunity to leave came along.

Waschteka thought it strange that the Englishmen did not allow their women to fightif they wished it. Few did, but if a woman could withstand the rigors, she was not denied if custom permitted it. There were many stories of women warriors among the Eastern peoples. His own people, the Wampanoag,even occasionally had a woman sachem, a leader, who inherited their position from their fathers. Alexia and her unusual life seemed closer to themselves than the other Englishmen, whom the People didn't always understand.

After several minutes, Waschteka spoke for them. "We will not speak of your tale Alexia. None has a heart so empty that we would want your family torn apart."

Alexia held the reins with one hand and used her other one to hold Lydia close as they traveled down the road. The smaller woman leaned against her larger frame, seeking comfort. Neither of them had spoken.

"Are ye angry wi' me Lydia? For staying to speak with them?"

Her spouse shook her head but didn't say anything. She looked too exhausted.

"They seemed like friendly people," the ex-soldier said softly, almost as though she was thinking aloud. "Too bad we couldn't go around dressed like they do. It would certainly be much cooler. But could ye imagine me and my pale skin blistering in the sun?"

The redhead snuck a glance at her companion. Lydia almost smiled. "That's one thing I hae always envied about ye, never needing to worrying about the sun. Ye got yer lovely skin from them."

The smaller woman looked startled. "You like my darker skin?" Alexia nodded. "I was always ashamed of it because it made me look different. I didn't want to be different," she said tearfully.

"Every child feels that way sweet Lydia. But ye ken, I believe the good Lord wanted us all to be different. He likes variety otherwise we'd all be exactly alike, and I think He did a wondrous thing when He created ye Lydia Browne."

"Master Douglas, do you know much about the place you suggested my wife and I have our picnic?"

"Oh, I know a little. What is it you need to know?" he asked, hiding a grin. He had a plan in the back of his mind. He didn't really want Alex relocating once his apprenticeship was over. Phineas was realistic, knowing his arthritis would force him to retire in less than ten years. Young Alex just needed a reason to stay in the area. He had gotten the idea yesterday when Alex had asked about a nice place to take his wife for a picnic.

The unused Clark place seemed ideal. Phineas knew it would sell cheaply since the land had not been cleared. It would be suitable for the young couple. It wasn't too far from town yet it was private and had good water. A little work and it would be quite livable.

"I was wondering who was the agent for the land. Ye did say it was for sale," he reminded Master Douglas.

"Tis so. Are you interested in it?" he asked, trying to keep his hopes in check.

"Aye, it is a beautiful place. It reminded me of home."

Phineas grunted. "Well Mr. Browne, why don't you go over to Samuel Moody's office and inquire about it." Alex quickly removed her apron, eager to leave. "A piece of advice Mr. Browne. Don't appear too eager. Remind him the land isn't cleared. Point out all the flaws and dicker over the price. He is a sharp man, and will fleece you for every shilling he can."

"Thank ye Master Douglas, I will do as ye say."

Alexia ran up the stairs to find her wife. "Lydia! Lydia!" he saw her sewing in the corner. "Look! I bought it!" she shouted excitedly, waving the deed. It had taken most her inheritance to buy it, but it was worth it. Lydia hugged her tightly.

"That is wonderful Alexia! I just wish we could live there." She said wistfully.

"Well, we could, at least part of the year. I would'na want to during the winter while I'm an apprentice but we could for the summers. It would be cooler and we wouldn't have to live with the stench of the town during the hot months. Master Douglas has agreed that I could arrive a bit late and leave a little earlier so I didn't have to travel in the dark. I'll buy a few horses and a wee carriage. You could come into town wi' me on the days of your sewing circle. I know ye would miss them."

She looked a bit fearful. "Do you think it would be safe for me alone out there Alexia?"

"Aye, I think so. I was thinking of getting us a large dog. He would protect ye and warn ye if anyone was near. And I will teach ye to shoot."

"When can we move? Could we start tomorrow?"

"Nay, the cabin needs work. I canna work on it on the Sabbath, so I need to find someone to make repairs in my stead during the week. And I'm sure ye will wish to make new curtains and such." Alexia sighed. "We'll need furniture for the place as well."

"We have my sewing money and inheritance Alexia, we can do this."

"Are ye certain ye wish to spend it?"

"Yes, the money is for both of us dearling. I will speak to my friends. I'm sure they can tell me the best places to buy household goods. Why don't you let me make all the arrangements? Master Douglas has been generous with his time, but we can't continue taking advantage of his good will. We'll go to the cabin on Sunday after services and make a list of what we need."

"That is a good plan my heart."

They got there in the late morning, bringing another picnic dinner with them. They wanted to spend every moment they could at their new home. Alexia unhitched the horse and tied him near the pond, allowing him to eat and drink.

Lydia took her hand, her eyes dancing with excitement. She wanted them to both enter the small cabin together. The redhead lifted the wooden door latch and pushed it open. Cobwebs and dust swayed as the breeze from outdoors disturbed them. The building had been uninhabited for several years. Wanting to get a better view of the interior, they opened the shutters. There were no windows of course. The previous owners couldn't afford them.

Amazingly, no one had been in the cabin since the funeral. Most of the former owner's possessions remained. The furniture was dirty but seemed sturdy. The mattress would have to be replaced for mice had built a nest inside of it. They dragged it outside and would burn it later.

"A cat, definitely a cat," Lydia muttered.

They went back inside and began poking around. The cabin contained a cabinet with dishes and utensils, crocked foods, which Alexia foolishly opened one jar and the stink of the rotting food nearly made her ill. There was a trunk containing books, a chest of drawers with male clothing, tools for farming, and iron tools for the fireplace.

Other than a lot of cleaning, and stocking of fresh foods, it needed little in furnishings. The walls were well mortared and after inspecting the roof, it seemed watertight. Apparently, the former owner had spent more time building his cabin than tilling the soil.

"Hello! Alexia and Lydia! Hello!" A voice from outside hollered. It had to be Waschteka, for only the natives knew Alexia's true name. Surprised the Wampanoags were still there, they stepped outside.

The slim Indian stepped forward, a smile on his face. "It is good to see you again friends. We did not expect to meet again."

"We thought the same. We assumed ye would have continued yer journeyby now," Alexia ventured.

The native nodded in agreement. "One of the children found a…" he searched for the word, "It is a metal thing your people use, to capture bears—big sharp points, a chain on it."

"A bear trap? God almighty! Is the child alright?" Lydia asked worriedly.

Waschteka nodded sadly. "The boy lost two fingers but is better. He had a fever for several days. You said the owners would not mind our people camping for a short time so we remained here."

"No need to worry about the owners Waschteka. A few days ago, Lydia and I bought this land. It is now ours. Yer people may stay as long as they need to."

The man smiled. "It is good that you have a place to belong. I thank you for your kind heart."

"It is little Waschteka." Alexia went to the well for a drink. "Waschteka, did yer people search to see if more traps were around? I dinna like the idea of someone poaching on my land."

"Poaching? I know not that word."

"It means to hunt or trap on another's land wi' out permission. I don't mind a small rabbit or such, but setting a trap could be dangerous as ye found out. I dinna want another harmed unwittingly."

"Yes, we found many more traps but left them alone. We did not know if they belonged to the owners."

"I see," Alexia said, wondering if leaving Lydia alone now would be wise. Who knew what could happen. "Well, I think ye and I should go find these traps and remove the danger. I hope whoever set them will realize the land is now claimed and stop hunting here."

Waschteka's wife, Ontetch, suggested all the women and children go to the pond to bathe. The day was muggy and the cool water would be pleasant. The Colonists were somewhat shy about the idea but were eventually drawn into it. They shyly removed their clothing as the native women quickly shed their own and jumped into the water.

"Be careful what you wish for," Lydia giggled.

"Aye, I did say something about liking to be less dressed, did I not?" Alexia said in chagrin. Lydia chuckled and leaned close to her ear even as her shift fell to the ground. "If you so much as glance at one of these nude women, I shall tear your eyes out of your head," she teased.

"Lydia!" the redhead whined in outrage, "Ye are a hoyden, just like Mary Elizabeth, I swear! Glance at another woman! Like another could even compare to ye," Alexia said sincerely. Lydia smiled brightly at her words. The self doubt that had plagued her since last meeting the Wampanoag eased. Never had she felt beautiful growing up. It had taken this redhead's trembling hands and awe filled eyes to begin doubting the mirror she had looked into all those years.

Turning, the seamstress looked at the laughing women in the pond, viewing them differently as well. Perhaps they didn't follow the standard of beauty for the Englishmen, but they radiated such warmth and happiness, enjoying life as it happened. Their sun-kissed skin was darker than her own, but she had avoided the sun as much as possible her entire life. Lydia's lips curled upwards, seeing the appeal in skin that wasn't winter pale. Her thoughts wandered until a pinch on her bottom brought her to the present.

"Wench, tell me nae to look then stare yerself! For shame!" Before Lydia could react, Alexia stole a kiss, laughed, and jumped into the pool of water. Seeing the humor, the seamstress gave a girlish squeal and followed after her, seeking playful revenge. It didn't take long for the entire group to join the antics.

Later, the pleasantly exhausted seamstress slipped onto the bank and put on her shift, disregarding the rest of her clothing. She spread out the wool blanket they had brought and sat under a shady tree and watched the others play in the water. Looking around, she spotted her spouse with a boy on the far side of the pond. They were bent over the water, their hands still under the surface. She wondered what they were up to. A few seconds later, the boy lunged forward and brought up a fish. He tossed it to the bank and pointed to the water. He must be teaching her how to tickle fish. Lydia heard of it but hadn't ever seen it done before.

Fascinated, she watched Alexia patiently try over and over unsuccessfully. Perhaps one day she'd master it. One of the women walked out of the water and squeezed the water from her dark hair. She smiled as she took a large piece of leather and wrapped it around her. Indicating the blanket with questioning eyes, Lydia nodded, inviting her to join her.

"Shansa," she said, pointing to herself. Lydia did the same and smiled. The native woman was smaller than herself and had a friendly manner. A warm smile curled her lips and never faltered. A boy of about eight joined them. The woman said something and the boy translated, surprising the colonist with his knowledge of English.

"Shansa says you remind her of her father's sister. You have the same face," he said. Lydia felt her stomach clench. The woman spoke again, placing her hand gently on her knee.

"Has she offended you?" the boy asked.

Lydia couldn't answer at first, trying to deal with the emotions churning up inside of her. Finally, she managed to speak. "Nay, she did not offend me," she mumbled. The boy translated quietly. The woman was determined to be kind. She dipped her head, making eye contact with the upset woman, saying something softly.

"You are unsettled by my words. I see pain in your eyes."

"It is old pain, nothing new," Lydia said, wiping away a tear.

"But the pain remains with you. Perhaps you have allowed it to fester too long. Your spirit cannot heal until it does so. Would it upset you to speak of it?"

Lydia looked up and saw the compassion in the native's eyes. She had spoken to Alexia about some of it, but as much as she loved her, the seamstress could not tell her all of it. Perhaps this stranger would understand. The fact the boy translated was forgotten, his skill made him invisible.

"What I know is little bits I have learned over the years," she clarified. "My mother lived not far from here on a farm. She used to play with the children belonging to one of Indian villages, your people I believe, because no other children lived nearby. When she was about my age, she disappeared. Grandfather looked and looked, and never found her. He died a few months later of a fever." Lydia paused, swallowing hard.

"My mother returned about a year later. She was with child. When she found out grandfather had died, she went to a neighbor for shelter. She told them she had been taken by a Wampanoag man who had fancied her. She had escaped him and ran home and that it took many days travel. No one knew what to do with her. She was unmarried and about to have a baby. Many colonists disapproved of her. Some said she should have killed herself rather than allowing herself to be violated. Some whispered that she had actually run off with him, calling her a harlot. She was very unhappy. A few weeks later, she gave birth to me. The midwife said my mother took one look at me and wept before she died.

"No one wanted to take responsibility in raising me but finally one family took me in. I was treated harshly. My foster parents were very strict and I was beaten for the smallest thing. They never let me forget that I would never fit in anywhere and that my birth killed my mother." Lydia couldn't look at the sympathetic woman next to her, but she heard her sniffling.

"Other children were cruel as well. I was called many terrible names and I had no friends. Once I was old enough to find employment, my foster parents handed me my belongings and told me to leave. I never felt so alone." The seamstress heard Shansa sob. It was enough to make her own tears flow. The native woman took her hand and leaned against her, crying with and for her. They clung to one another tearfully, even when another set of arms enfolded them gently.

The tears gradually eased as both women leaned against the same set of broad shoulders of Alexia. Both women were spent emotionally but Shansa asked another question, translated by the tight throated boy.

"What was the Wampanoag man's name who took your mother?"

"Naytauken," she murmured emotionlessly.

"Then we are kinswomen Lydia. My father was your father's brother."

Lydia sat there, stunned. Words wouldn't form and she felt numb. She heard Alexia speak to Shansa although the words sounded as though it came from far away.

"Do you know what really happened? Lydia's mother never told anyone a single thing about what had happened to her while she was gone."

"It is considered bad luck to speak of the dead, but my father told me about his younger brother once. He had fallen in love with an English girl named Annabelle, but among our people, she was called Eshna.She knew her family wouldn't approve of a joining between them because Naytauken wasn't a Christian. So she ran away with him and lived in our village. They were very happy. She was expecting a baby and just before it was due, Naytauken died, killed by a bear that he was hunting. Eshna's grief was too great, and she left to rejoin her family. We never saw her again or knew her fate, until now."

"She wanted me?" Lydia asked weakly, the long suffering child inside needing the words.

"Yes, she wanted you very much. She spent many hours making baby items. My grandmother gave them to me for when I had children. If you'd like, I will give them to you for your children."

"We can't have babies," Lydia said, her lips quirking because Shansa had forgotten about Alexia's gender. "But I would like to see them." Her cousin stood, promising to return shortly.

Alexia settled down onto the blanket and pulled her wife into her arms. "Are ye alright sweet Lydia?"

The smaller woman snuggled into her arms and nodded. A great weight had lifted from her shoulders. She was tired but happy. She took a deep breath and let it out, taking in the scent of her lover. Her eyes popped open.

"Alexia! You are naked!"

"I had forgotten," she chuckled. I suppose I should put something on. Be right back."

Shansa and the redhead returned about the same time, both sitting down on the blanket. The native woman untied a deer skin bundle and handed it to Lydia.

The seamstress folded back the corners slowly until the items inside were exposed. On top was a tiny skin shirt, soft as butter and decorated with hundreds of miniature beads. Beneath it was a folded blanket, woven from many colored felt strands. Lydia picked up a small moccasin. It too had beads sewn onto it in bright patterns. The last item was a rattle made from a gourd and attached to a handle. It was dyed a bright red. She shook it briefly, hearing the pebbles inside.

A fat tear streaked her face as she replaced everything back into the deer skin. She tied it back up and held the bundle tightly against her, wanting to absorb the love her mother had meant to give her. Reluctantly, she held it out to Shansa, who refused it. The woman pushed it gently towards her and walked away.

The couple left their property an hour before sunset. Alexia had told the natives they were always welcomed to her land and had hoped they would feel free to visit any time. After all, they were kin. Lydia gave her cousin a heartfelt hug before leaving, grateful to now have blood family, no matter how unusual.

The seamstress spoke excitedly the entire way home. Alexia just smiled, letting her wife pour out every thought and feeling.

"I understand you have a group of natives on your new property Lydia," Ruth said, looking up from her corner of the quilt the women were sewing.

"Yes, we do. A child was injured on their way to their summer fishing grounds. We gave them permission to stay until he could travel." No doubt the rumor began with Caleb, the man hired to do minor repairs on the cabin while his wife and Lydia cleaned it. The man had been shocked at the sight of natives there. It had taken quite a while to settle him down enough to get him to stay and finish the work.

"But why let them stay on your land! Aren't you afraid of them?" she continued, not allowing Lydia to reply. "I know I would be. Imagine, those heathens running about, doing God knows what there."

"Such as what Ruth?" the seamstress asked tightly.

"I don't know. I couldn't possibly imagine, but everyone knows they are savages. I don't know why we tolerate them," she said in disgust.

Mary Elizabeth spoke up before Lydia could cut into her. "Ruth, you and your husband are new arrivals here and ignorant of the history here. If it weren't for the Indians, none of us would be alive. The Plimouth colony would have starved to death if they hadn't stepped in and taught us how to grow food and what to hunt. They befriended us."

"That is well and good, but they are still uncivilized heathens. They don't believe in God the same way we do."

"Odd, isn't it religious freedom why we left England in the first place? Because we didn't like being told how to worship God?" Martha inserted.

"I still think the savages should be driven away," Ruth huffed, having no proper reply to Martha.

"Feel free to leave any time Ruth," Lydia said between clenched teeth.

"What is that supposed to mean Lydia Browne?" the woman asked angrily. She was tired of the women of the sewing circle always criticizing her.

"I am half Wampanoag Ruth, and I find your remarks offensive. I am neither a savage or uncivilized and will not tolerate your nasty comments any further."

The woman stood up in a huff and left. The other women sat stunned for a moment before Mary Elizabeth spoke.

"Hmmph, and all this time I thought you were a Spaniard," the woman said with a straight face then began laughing. Lydia had never hidden the fact she was part native, always answering honestly if asked. To most Puritans, Lydia was a Christian born and raised. To be sure, some were fanatical in their beliefs but not all of them. The Colonies were a mixture of four major religions that had learned to live mostly in peace with one another. Most groups lived in separate communities but trade was what kept the Colonies running.

"Lydia, now that Ruth has left, could I ask you a question?"

"Of course Martha"

"What are they like? I don't know any Indians but you and you aren't exactly like them, are you?"

Lydia chuckled, "Nay, I am not like them, but I like them. That is a good thing considering one of the women on our land is my cousin," she informed all of them.

"Your cousin! Lydia, how…?"

"We visited with them silly. When we spoke, we discovered our fathers were brothers," Lydia said simply, not about to go into painful details of her childhood.

"What is she like?" Mary Elizabeth asked.

"She is smaller than I am, about my age. She is not yet wed. She doesn't speak English but there was a boy who spoke it beautifully and translated for us. Shansa is very kind and was happy to meet me. As to the others, they seemed a cheerful people. Their manner of dress is a bit unnerving but if you ignore that, they are very nice. They raise their children differently than we do though," she mentioned.

"How Lydia?" Mary Elizabeth asked, fascinated.

"They never tell them what to do! They believe every child should learn how to behave by watching others. It is the duty of the community to live within proper boundaries as good examples. Good behavior is encouraged and bad behavior ignored. The children wish to fit in and please their elders, so they behave properly. Oh, they teach them how to work, but beyond that, they are free to do as they wish."

The women gasped, surprised by this. After all, in their society, children were strictly raised and had little time for play.

"I know, I thought it shocking as well, but the children were happy and polite. The Wampanoag believe everyone should work for the greater good of the community, not for yourselves. They do nothing without considering everyone else first. I learned a lot speaking with them but I doubt I even touched the surface of their culture. When I sat down and thought about it, I decided they had many qualities I admired," she admitted.

"We could learn much from them, but greed and self interest is too widely spread. A pity we couldn't take lessons from them," Martha commented.The others agreed.

They couldn't stop grinning. They rode in their carriage, eagerly making the trip to their new home. The trip was an easy one, only needing to bring clothing, food, and a few personal items. The majority of their possessions remained in the rooms above the shop. Lydia had talked Alexia out of finding a dog. Although its presence would be welcomed out in the country, it wouldn't have a place in their lives during the cold months.

Ditto for the idea of having hens. There would be no one to feed them once they returned to Boston, even though fresh eggs would be welcomed. Alexia would have to settle for buying them in the town at the end of the day. They did agree on raising a garden. The time for planting was already past, so they purchased fast growing planting seeds, hoping the fall would be mild enough to harvest the crops. Lydia would plant a small plot during the day.

There were some items they'd have to rely on purchasing rather than producing themselves, such as soap. Soap was made from animal fat and ashes, but without raising animals for butchering, they would have to buy from the market.

mso-tab-count:1'> The one thing they did have though was Alexia's pride and joy, the load of beehives that would be delivered next week. Owning large wildflower fields made it ideal for raising bees. They kept care of themselves year around and would provide them with honey and beeswax for candles. She had traded skills with the sawyer, making him some new iron tools in exchange for the wooden beehives.

In addition to the hive, their pond provided freshwater fish, the fields had rabbits and wild birds, such as quail and turkey, and with their own garden,could provide most of their own food. Alexia looked forward to the time when she was a journeyman. She could build another cabin as a shop on her own land and begin raising animals. She could make her wares here and sell them to shops in town. The redhead was realistic, knowing she'd never grow rich with her trade. The important thing would be she and Lydia were together and getting by.

Once they arrived, it took little time to settle in. Once everything was put in its proper place, they went outside to enjoy the mild spring day. They strolled hand in hand, looking over their property. Lydia pointed out some several kinds of plants that would provide berries come fall, promising some homemade pies then. She knew Alexia had a sweet tooth. She smiled at the idea of the future treats, but her smile turned seductive.

"Until then sweet Lydia, I'll make do nibbling on yer fine self," playfully grabbing the smaller woman and nuzzled her ear. Lydia squealed and pulled away, running towards the cabin. Laughing merrily, Alexia gave chase, jogging after her escaping spouse. She caught up with her just as the seamstress reached the door, wrapping her arms around her, she pulled her close for a kiss. Lydia managed to stop giggling and enthusiastically returned it, pulling the tall woman's head closer. Alexia let out a sexy growl that sent a thrill of excitement down her spine. She tried to move even closer but was surprised when Alexia suddenly pulled away.

mso-tab-count:1'> "Damn! Someone is coming down the drive. I had better fetch my waistcoat." Alexia rushed inside and put on the vest, glad she hadn't yet unbound her breasts. She rejoined Lydia outside and watched as a carriage came up the road. The Sullivan's were piled into it. As they spotted the young couple, the familywaved and greeted them. Looking up the road, she spotted several more wagons and carriages following behind them.

"Sweet Lord, is there anyone left in Boston?" Alexia giggled.

Within an hour, tables had been set up outside and food set out. It was going to be quite a celebration. Several men had musical instruments and were playing cheerful tunes. Once everyone had their fill of food and dancing, they gathered around in small groups to chat. The children separated, the boys hunting down the frogs and turtles, the girls sitting under the trees on blankets.

Alexia was strolling with William Sullivan and Phineas Douglas, pointing out areas of interest and her plans for the future. As they walked past the once cleared section, Will stopped and stared at the field. Someone had churned the soil.

"Alex, have you been working your fields already? When do you find the time and energy?" he said with amazement.

The redhead turned around, wondering what he was talking about. Peering past the lanky man, she saw that her field had been recently turned over. "What in heaven's name…I dinna do that!"

"You didn't? That is odd. Hmm, I wonder why it looks like a circle?" Will muttered.

Phineas chuckled at the two younger men. "I think your Indian friends left you a thank you lad. Or at least the lasses did. That's how they plant their crops, in a circle. In the middle is corn then in a circle about it is beans, then on the outside is pumpkin and squash."

"Are ye sure Master Douglas? How do ye know?"

"That's the way they do it. The corn is tallest and gives shade to the beans and a place for the vines to grab onto. And the pumpkin and squash like to spread out."

"How in the world do you keep care of such a silly garden if there's no rows?" Will asked.

"You don't. The Indians plant the gardens and walk away. And it can't be too silly since they aren't starving. It works, and that's all one needs to know," he said smugly.

Alexia was stunned. If the garden indeed produced as he said, she and Lydia would have more than enough for the winter months. They'd probably have to give some of it away! Tickled at their generosity, she couldn't help but smile. "I guess what they say about bread upon the waters is true. A small kindness has brought us this from our kin."

"You are the oddest looking Indian I have even seen Alexander Browne," Will teased, "But, I have to warn you that some of your neighbors were a bit nervous about you letting them stay at your place."

"Why? The closest home to us is a goodly three miles away. Besides, they were warm and friendly people just traveling to their fishing grounds. It wasn't like they were a band of raiders."

"It doesn't matter. There's been some trouble up North with some of the Indians up there. To most, an Indian is an Indian. It's like if one Scot is a thief, all Scots are thieves—pardon my example Alex," Phineas explained.

"Good thing I was not so narrow minded or I'd hae never married Lydia, who is ha' English. There would be some who think I'd hae every right to hate all the English, but I can't. There are many good people in every group, and some bad also. Ye hae to judge each person on their own merits."

"I quite agree with thee Mr. Browne," a male voice said from behind him. "In fact, I believe thee has given me the subject of my next sermon. But alas, I fear it may take more than my humble words to steer those who insist on hatred," Reverend Worthshire sighed. "It doesn't take much to push people away from civilized behavior. Our Colonies are growing and the demands for more raw materials force us to move inland. I foresee a day when our Indian neighbors will resent our presence and our Treaty will shatter. I only pray it will be long after my death."

The other men were silent, thinking over his words. Then Phineas spoke for all of them. "Aye," he said simply.

Alexia shook the depressing thoughts from her mind and joined her wife who was chatting with several other ladies. They were exchanging recipes and ideas for home making. One of the women tried to shoo the redhead away teasingly, telling her she couldn't possibly be interested in their conversation. Mary Elizabeth wheezed with laughter.

"Temperance, for shame. Didn't you know young Alex here can cook? Lord, if I was ten years younger and he was single…" she teased just to see Alex blush.

"You would probably kill him with your enthusiasm and then seek another young man," Martha Greer chortled, causing the others to laugh.

"What is your favorite thing to cook Mr. Browne?" Temperance asked.

"Hmm, I would think Bridies are my specialty," the redhead answered.

"What are they?"

"Oh, you take pie dough and place minced meat, onions, and a bit of lard inside and bake it. Some like adding other vegetables, some like using offal. It depends on what ye like. Tis simple enough."

"It's quite good," Lydia commented. "But I love his Stovies. He fries meat and saves the fat and cooks up chopped potatoes, onions, and vegetables in it. It is much like hash."

One of the women leaned towards her, her face grim. "Lydia, why are you slim? You should be as round as a Spring robin by now!" The others laughed. Alexia smiled indulgently and took her wife's hand quietly, sitting next to her on the bench. The ladies began chatting away, forgetting a gentleman sat among them.

"Oh ho, not content on having a pretty wife, he must surround himself with ours as well! Greedy lad!" Will teased, slapping him lightly on the back. The women tittered as Alex grinned lopsidedly.

"Do ye blame me? Why look at yer ugly mugs when such lovely ladies grace my land? T'would be a waste to let such an opportunity pass me by," Alexia said charmingly, causing several women to blush prettily. Lydia elbowed him lightly, promising him a place in the barn if he continued to misbehave, causing everyone to roar.

Alexia kissed her hand and winked at the smirking men behind him.

The afternoon was growing late and soon the families packed up and began heading back into town. The young couple thanked each family for the home warming and wished them a safe journey. Alone once more, they let out their breaths in relief. The gathering had been enjoyable but tiring. They stood there and cuddled a bit, too tired to move.

Lydia had her face buried into the larger woman's neck, feeling the heat come off of her.

"Hmm, I suggest we bathe. I love you dearling, but a day in the sun fully clothed left you quite ripe. How about a nice swim?" the seamstress suggested.

"Only if ye join me," the redhead purred, making her wife shiver. She nodded with a smile. They fetched a blanket from under the tree and several drying cloths.

Tossing their clothing to the ground, they dove into the water. They played for a short while before the play turned to kisses and touching. Alexia pulled the smaller woman closer and stepped back until her feet was planted firmly under her.

"Now I hae ye," she smiled, holding Lydia so her feet couldn't reach bottom. It didn't bother the seamstress. She lifted her legs and wrapped them around the strong woman. "Now I have you," she giggled, placing her hands behind her neck and finding Alexia's mouth. She had simmered all afternoon, biding her time until they were alone again, her imagination playing many possibilities in her mind. She wasn't in the mood for lingering touches. At this moment, she wanted the redhead burning and all playfulness was gone.

Her lips took Alexia's wildly, thrusting her tongue between them. The larger woman moaned and tried to take a breath as her own needs escalated. The kisses became rougher as Lydia wound her limbs tighter around her spouse. Finally dragging her lips away and took a deep breath.

"The blanket, now!" she hissed. She could feel powerful muscles bunch as Alexia carried her to the bank. Once her feet found the wool material, she sunk to her knees and pinned Lydia onto her back. Her mouth sought her mouth once more, growling softly as the smaller woman ground her pelvis against her belly. Nails scored her back, leaving welts in their wake. Lost in the primal need, Alexia didn't feel the pain. She tore her mouth away and moved downwards, knowing Lydia as she knew herself.

Her lips parted as a breast was thrust upwards, the nipple hard and pebbled. Lydia cried out, writhing and panting under the onslaught of contrary sensations; the hot mouth giving her such incredible pleasure and the cold dripping of water from Alexia's hair pooling in the hollow of her neck. Her hand reached beneath her lover, finding her generous breast. Alexia moaned louder as persistent fingers took hold of her nipple and refused to let go.

"Straddle my leg Alexia, I want to see you seek your pleasure," her voice quavered in excitement. Nothing was more moving than the sight of the powerful woman over her, rocking against her leg. Alexia didn't do it often, only when her passion was so wild she couldn't help herself. Lydia ached to watch her, with the sun shining above them and the water still glistening on her skin.

Unable to refuse the need in her wife's voice, she shifted her body until her throbbing center was pressing against the cool thigh. Lydia lifted it, pushing harder against her pelvis. Alexia braced her hands on each side of the prone woman and began moving, her eyes locking with the dark eyed woman's. Her movements were slow at first, but Lydia grasped her breasts and fondled them. Swallowing back a moan, her hips responded by moving faster. Lydia began whispering her erotic thoughts to her, driving the larger woman to a frenzy. Alexia's eyes closed, her focus solely on the pleasure threatening to overcome her.

Lydia felt the hard bumping of Alexia's hip against her own need. The sensation alone wouldn't normally be enough, but the sight of Alexia's face as she drove herself against her was enough to bring her to the very edge of her pleasure. Alexia loudly cried out as her own climax was reached, toppling Lydia over the crest with her. The smaller woman was barely aware of her lover collapsing on top of her, arms too weak to support her body any longer.

The redhead managed to find enough strength to move to Lydia's side, her mind prodding her not to crush the petite woman. Gulping in air, she rolled onto her back and fell limp. It took several moments to become aware of stinging on her back. Her mind was too helpless to remember why. She closed her eyes and drifted to sleep.

She woke to giggling and a tickly sensation on her arse. Her mind tried to identify the unusual feelings but failed. Light prickling on her bottom and a breezy brushing of hair stroked the back of her thigh. Was Lydia nipping her bottom? She dragged her eyes open and blinked, trying to focus. Lydia sat a few feet from her and was biting her lip, vastly amused. The sensation continued.

"Shh, don't move," Lydia whispered.

"What is going on?" she hissed back.

The seamstress giggled softly, "There is a squirrel on your rump!"

"A what?" she roared. What must have been sharp claws scurried across her hips and a blur of gray disappeared into the nearest tree.

"Oh fie, you scared it away!"

"Lydia! Ye allowed a rodent to perch on me?" she pouted. The small woman laughed.

"But it was so cute sitting there, I didn't have the heart to shoo it away," she confessed.

Alexia tried to look behind her, expecting scratch marks. "I think the damned thing scratched me!" she growled.

"Then I will kiss them better," Lydia grinned and crawled over to her. Alexia's frown changed into a naughty grin as the warm lips placed soft kisses along her skin. She hummed pleasantly and lowered her head down onto one forearm. The kisses became more daring as Lydia added nibbling and teasing licks, bringing the redhead to a simmering arousal.

Alexia felt her muscles clenching and shifting. She began aching for a more intimate touch. She felt Lydia stop and move away. She grunted out a pitiful whine.

"Shh dearling, raise your hips for me but a moment," Lydia ordered soothingly. Alexia obliged, and felt a wadded blanket placed under her hips. A hand patted the small of her back and she eased down onto it. Her bottom was now elevated, leaving her feeling a bit vulnerable.

Soft hands began caressing her body lightly, relaxing her. Once she her body was limp, Lydia began nuzzling her nape and back, careful to avoid the scratch marks from earlier. Each caress was soft as they moved downward. A hot tongue tickled along her spine and the redhead felt teasing fingers on her inner thigh. Alexia tried to open her thighs wider but was asked to remain still. Fingers moved under her and Alexia whimpered when short nails raked through the dark red curls found there. Teeth nipped her rump, causing her to gasp.

"Lydia, ye are trying to kill me yet again!" she whined. A throaty chuckle sent shivers along her body. A finger tip found her entrance and teased at it, swirling around the slick skin.

"Nay, but I like seeing you this way, burning and helpless," her voice said lowly. Alexia whimpered again. The finger slid along and found the nub that was swollen with need. She teased it lightly, sending the larger woman's hips into spasms. She gripped the blanket, trying to remain still, but her hips had a life of their own. The finger continued the sweet torture as she felt the first shock of contractions hit. Her hips pumped furiously as the finger kept up its pace. Her breathing came in gasping moans as she felt another wave building. Just when she believed she would fly off again into heaven, the finger moved away. Before she could bellow out a protest, several fingers were thrust into her. It took just a few rough strokes before she felt the pleasure crash over her.

When she recovered, she managed to roll off the wadded blanket and reached for her wife. Lydia found her lips, greedily ravishing them. The larger woman pinned her to the blanket, now eager to bring her the same heaven. Her teeth nibbled along her neck as her hand touched the quivering woman everywhere.

"Don't make me wait dearling, take me now," she begged. Lydia grabbed her large hand and brought it between her damp thighs. Happy to oblige her, the redhead slid two fingers into her body, feeling the welcoming muscles inside grip them. She leaned over a pert nipple and teased her with her tongue as her fingers moved slowly.

"More!" Lydia begged. Alexia pretended ignorance.

"What? More of these?" she said, wiggling the fingers that were inside of her. Lydia gasped and her hips jerked upwards. Surprised by the reaction, the larger woman began moving her fingers once more, watching how Lydia reacted. It was fascinating. After some careful exploration, she found that Lydia reacted the strongest when the pads of her fingers were pointed upwards and stroked the inner walls deep inside. The smaller woman bucked wildly, unable to form any coherent words. Pleased by the results, she continued the soft stroking until she realized her thumb could reach another spot as well. She pressed her callused thumb against her and rubbed her lightly. The woman beneath her gripped her upper arm painfully and cried out in pleasure then passed out.

"Lydia? Lydia?" Alexia was shocked. What had happened? Her wife was pale but still breathing. Frightened, Alexia gathered the petite woman into her arms and carried her into the cabin. Pushing back the coverlets with her foot, she placed Lydia into the bed and covered her. Alexia was shaking, terrified she had somehow harmed the woman she loved. She held onto her hand and pressed it to her mouth, tears pooling in her eyes.

"Lydia, love, please be alright. I dinna mean to hurt ye," she whispered. Dark lashes fluttered. Alexia held her breath, praying she was alright. "Lydia?" she asked gently. Lydia's confused eyes opened and looked towards her.


"You fainted Lydia. I carried ye inside. How are ye feeling?" she asked, guilt clenching at her stomach.

"Mmm, I feel good."

"Good?" she practically screamed. "Ye fainted! How could ye-"

"Shh. Dearling, I don't know what you did, but I never imagined that anything could ever feel that wonderful," she said with a satisfied purr. Alexia's mouth hung open. Her spouse just continued to grin like the cat who stole the cream. Deciding women were impossible creatures to understand, she slumped into the chair in defeat.

Alexia arrived home a bit late. The sky was already darkening by the time she unsaddled the horse. A lantern was burning outside the door. She gave the horse a quick curry then walked towards the cabin. Outside, the redhead spotted Lydia strolling towards her. Glad to see her wife after a long day, she jogged over to her and pulled her close.

"Hello my sweet Lydia," she bent down, intending to kiss her. "How was yer-" Alexia screamed and stumbled back several steps.

"Who in heaven are ye?" the former soldier choked out. The woman was not Lydia.

The woman didn't speak English. She said something in another language. Alexia didn't understand and wanted to know where her wife was. "Lydia!" she yelled fearfully.

The cabin door swung open. "Alexia? Is something wrong?" her wife asked from the doorway. The redhead rushed to her, "Lydia, who is that woman?" she asked, pointing at the approaching female.

Lydia smiled. "That is my aunt Comochiem. We have company. Seems word got out about me and they all arrived a few hours ago." The dark haired woman explained softly.

"They? As in how many?" Alexia, now that she knew Lydia was safe, was more curious than anything.

"I lost count. All the extended family tagged along it seems. They're camped over the hill. Grandmother is inside. Come and meet her," taking her elbow and giving it a tug. Alexia removed her felt hat and entered the small cabin.

An elderly woman sat awkwardly on one of their chairs. She wore a pale skin dress that left one shoulder bare. Several bone and shell necklaces hung around her neck. Her aged face showed little of her emotions and Alexia wondered what the woman was thinking. Lydia stepped closer to her spouse and the redhead automatically wrapped one arm across her shoulders and held her close.

The old woman smiled. The young woman with the hair like fire may walk the path of men, but her heart was still of mother. She motioned the tall youth towards her, wanting a better look at the fair skinned woman. Lydia's mate stepped closer and knelt at her feet with the respect due her age. Eyes the color of new grass touched her own. They were kind eyes. Her granddaughter had chosen well. Wepaesee turned to the boy acting as the interpreter and spoke.

"Where are your breasts?" the woman asked curiously. Alexia laughed and unbuttoned her waistcoat and the top buttons of her shirt, revealing the binding that held them flat. The older woman asked if she was uncomfortable. Admitting she was, she took off the vest and placed it over the back of one chair. Wepaesee suggested she remove the wrappings. Alexia could only blush and looked towards the boy.

Remembering the modesty of the whites, the elderly woman told the boy to turn away, then motioned for Alexia to do as she suggested. Bashfully, the redhead took off her shirt. Lydia helped unwind the cloth. Once her generous features were free, she donned her shirt.

Alexia asked her grandmother-in-law if she would mind if she removed her footwear. The day was warm but she didn't know the Indian's customs and didn't want to offend her. The woman didn't mind so she pulled off her leather shoes. Next came the garters that held up her short stockings. Pulling them off, she sighed in relief. The cool dirt floor felt wonderful against her hot feet. She rolled up her sleeves and leaned back.

Lydia handed her a mug of cider then sat on her lap since the only two chairs they had were occupied.

"What are those spots on you Ales-e-a," the older woman inquired. The redhead looked down, realizing the woman referred to her freckles. She held out her arm and explained that people with her hair color often had them. The woman touched them with her gnarled fingertip, curious if they felt differently.

"You remind me of a newborn deer with these spots."

Lydia laughed. "That's why I call her 'dearling' grandmother," Lydia confessed.

"What?" Alexia said in surprise, "I thought it was because I was dear to ye," she said with a mock pout. Her wife chuckled and kissed her pale temple.

"You are dear to me dearling," she couldn't resist saying. Alexia retaliated by briefly tickling her ribs.

Lydia's grandmother waited for the boy to translate then chuckled. "It is good that you found such a mate child. Your mother loved as greatly and would have been pleased."

"I'm not sure of that grandmother." Lydia approached a subject she had avoided even to herself since she married Alexia. "Among my mother's people, such a love as ours is forbidden. The priests don't speak of it openly, but I know they would condemn us, certain we would be cursed in God's eyes."

Wepaesee folded her arms and leaned back, her face serious. "And you my granddaughter, do you believe that your love is cursed?" she held up her hand to prevent Lydia from answering right away. "Or, in your heart, do you feel complete when you are together? I know something of your God. Men often visit and speak of their God and his son Jesus, wishing us to put aside our own beliefs. They speak of him as a father, yet the God they speak of is feared. What father would instill such fright in his children? I do not understand this. But I do hold this to be true; that the heart is a vast thing for the Great Spirit, be white or red, and is as he created it. To deny what one's heart tells you is to deny what you are. Only you can understand what how it guides you. Listen to it and it will never fail you."

Lydia felt the nagging guilt fade away and smiled down at her spouse. "I love her very much Grandmother, she is my life." Alexia returned the smile brightly.

"Then it is good. It is getting late. My old bones need their rest." She carefully stood up with the boy's help and wished them a good night.

Alone, the redhead shifted her wife until she could rest her head on her shoulder, wrapping both arms around her. "I love ye Lydia Browne, I love ye." The women sat there for quite a while, embracing silently. Forgotten was their missed meal. They undressed and slipped into bed. Words weren't needed to share their thoughts. The night kept silent vigil over the young lovers until they fell into contented slumber.

The apprentice stirred the pot of porridge quietly with a wooden spoon. Once it was thick enough, she poured her portion into a bowl and added salt. The Scot left her spouse's portion plain. Lydia liked adding milk and honey to her porridge which the Scot thought was revolting. She glanced at the still sleeping woman as she ate.

Alexia felt her mouth water but not by her breakfast. Lydia's dark hair was tousled becomingly and her full lips parted. One bare breast was exposed to the cool morning air and was pouted invitingly. The desire to crawl back into bed nearly over-powered her. Mentally berating herself, she turned away from the tempting view and finished eating. She had to get going or risk being late.

She grabbed her hat and headed out the door, careful not to make any noise. She headed for the lean-to where the horses were kept and saddled the gelding. Two children were fetching water from the well and waved as she rode past them. Waving back, she headed for town.

"You look tired lad. Didn't you rest well last night?"

Alexia managed not to blush. "Well, my wife's kin arrived yesterday. Ye ken understand how it is. People chat well after dark and ye miss sleep." She wasn't about to confess she had never gotten more than an hour's rest because she and Lydia just couldn't stop what they had started.

"Oh? What do you think of them? I know you liked her cousin well enough."

"I only got to speak with her grandmother last night. The rest were already settled down when I got home. I think Lydia is enjoying the visitors."

Phineas grunted and picked up the molding that Alex was carving. The design was quite good, he decided, looking over the details of the etchings. Once done, they would blow soft melted glass into it to form the whiskey bottles the customer commissioned. Young Mr. Browne had a true gift with glass work. He had been his apprentice for nearly a year but his skills were as one who was almost a journeyman. There was very little more he could learn from him. The Glazier sighed. Alex needed to find another glassworker with greater skills than his own, but that would mean leaving the Colonies altogether. The best glass artists lived in Venice he understood.

"Sometime this week, I should be receiving a shipment of colored glass. I think it is about time I teach you the other method of making windows. I know you consider painting glass uninteresting." Phineas commented.

"So ye will teach me the old way?" Alexia asked eagerly.

Master Douglas nodded. "Aye, but I don't know much more than you do I'm embarrassed to say. You have the soul of an artist Mr. Browne, and I think within a short time, you'll be teaching me." Phineas took out sheets of thick parchment from a drawer and placed them on the table. "Why don't you start drawing up some ideas after you've finished carving that mold?"

The smile on Alexia's face nearly split it in two. "Aye Master Douglas!"

Lydia sat under the shady tree, grateful for some relief from the heat. Even dressed in just a skirt and shift, the day was sweltering. Her female relatives seemed cooler and she wondered if they were just more accustomed to it or their clothing was lighter. She waved her silk and whalebone fan, wishing for a cool breeze. Her grandmother pointed up the road leading to the cabin. Following her finger, she spotted Alexia riding up. It was not much after 2 o'clock. Perhaps Master Douglas closed the shop early.

They waved to one another even as several of her young relations ran up to the horse to greet the redheaded rider. Alexia laughed and pulled one child up onto her lap much to the delight of the girl. After a moment, she got off the horse. Her followers watched her remove the saddle and gear. She didn't get a chance to curry the tired mount for the children took over. Giving in, Alexia headed for her wife. She bent down for a kiss then shucked her hat and vest.

"Tis hot enough to fry an egg in the sun," she commented.

Wepaesee said something and the boy, Inshapae, translated. "Why don't you try our clothing. Yours is unsuitable for this weather."

If the suggestion had been made to another Colonial couple, it would have been rejected out of hand and the couple offended. But Alex and Lydia were more open. Lydia looked at Alexia and said she would if the redhead would dress as a male Wampanoag.

"Lydia! Ye hoyden, ye just want to see my bosom exposed!" she accused. Her wife laughed and batted her eyelashes. Alexia sighed. Her upbringing made it seem shameless, especially in front of the men, and said so.

Lydia's grandmother spoke up, saying she would ask the men to stay beyond the hill. They had a cool spring if they wanted to cool off. Just the women and younger children would be able to see her. Glancing at her spouse, who pleaded silently with her eyes, Alexia nodded.

Someone was sent to the camp for clothing and the men and older boys drifted to the other side of the hill. A girl returned with folded bundles and the couple excused themselves to change. Grandmother followed, saying she'd help them with the unfamiliar gear.

When they finished, Lydia decided she would still be burning up, for the sight of her lover wearing nothing but a loincloth was enough to drive away every pure thought. Her luminous pale skin was complimented by the bleached hide that only pretended to cover her buttocks. Her grandmother placed a necklace over her head that hung enticingly over Alexia's large breasts, brushing the pale pink nipples so they stood out perkily.

Wepaesee saw the look of lust on her grandchild's face and cackled.

The tall redhead cleared her throat. "I think I'll go outside now." Lydia laughed and swatted her pale bottom lightly. Lydia looked nice in native garb as well, her olive skin looked warmer and the sight of her bare legs did wonders for her imagination. Caught staring by Wepaesee, the older woman swatted her bottom as well, saying only God knew what in a saucy tone.

"Now I know where she got it from," Alexia muttered loudly and strolled out the door.

People began preparing foods later that afternoon, strolling back and forth between small fires. Before Alexia had realized it, the men and boys had begun drifting back into the area around the pond. She blushed heavily despite the fact none of them seemed to even notice or care about her semi-nudity. Alexia was tempted to escape into the house to find a shirt, but Lydia's aunt, Comochiem, handed her a toddler and stood up, needing to make a trip to the woods.

Alexia and child stared at one another. She was fine with older children but was at a loss with younger ones. The serious look they exchanged made her wife laugh.

"Here, give me the boy," Lydia said as she held out her hands. The child instantly smiled back at the happy face of his older cousin. They exchanged looks and funny noises as the redhead watched. As the minutes passed, she realized Lydia liked babies. The knowledge caused a renewed sense of guilt because she couldn't give that to the loving woman she married.

She deserved to be a mother.

Lydia glanced at her spouse and saw tears glimmering in her eyes. "What's wrong dearling?"

Alexia shook her head. Why cause Lydia any sadness by speaking of it? She forgot how stubborn her mate was.

"Alexia Rose Browne, if you think for one moment I'll sit here and ignore the misery I see in your eyes, you're quite mistaken. Now tell me!" she whispered strongly.

The former soldier didn't speak but she didn't need to. Her green eyes went to the boy then herself. Lydia sighed and leaned against the taller woman. "It's alright dearling, I understand. But you want to know something? I would rather have you than a hundred children. You are God's gift to me and I don't take our love for granted." The seamstress felt Alexia's arm wrap around her and warm lips brush her forehead.

Comochiem and Wepaesee exchanged looks as they watched the two women.

Several men and boys invited Alexia to join them in target practice. A friendly competition had begun. A hide with a crude picture of a head and shoulders of a deer were drawn onto it. They waved at the redhead, chuckling good-naturedly. She was handed a bow then an arrow and shown how to position it. Her strong arm pulled back the cord.

The man instructing her with hand signs gasped and prevented her from releasing it. He said something in Wampanoag. Seeing her confused look, he tapped her breast with his fingertip. Alexia pulled back in shock, her hand forming a fist and her face snarling in savage response.

Inshapae, the boy who spoke English, grabbed her arm. "No, he was trying to warn you!"

The redhead took a deep breath and forced herself to relax, looking at the boy. He let go of her arm and told her that if she released the arrow standing the way she did, she would have injured her breast with the cord. The boy was bright and instructed her on the proper stance without touching her.

Once the boy was satisfied with her stance, she aimed the arrow as she would a musket, with both eyes open, and released it. The arrow lodged into the side of the tree, a little left of the 'deer's' heart. The men cheered and held the quiver towards her, prompting her to try again. Adjusting her aim, her second shot landed true. The boy told her she'd make a fine hunter.

After a few more shots to prove it wasn't dumb luck, she handed over the bow and returned to her wife's side. Wepaesee looked at her strangely and waved Inshapae over.

"You have much anger inside of you," the older woman said to the redhead. Lydia looked up in surprise. Alexia had always been sweet natured. Why did her grandmother think that of her? To her greater surprise her spouse nodded.

"Lydia, even this boy sees it and understands." The woman returned her gaze to the subdued Scot, even though what she said was for her granddaughter as well. "I do not see hatred in your eyes for our people, so it must be of all men. It is a terrifying thing to happen to a woman, something that all of us secretly fear deeply. To have our choice taken from us. I saw this terror behind your anger just now." Her gnarled hand took Alexia's large hand in her own, her old voice somehow even softer.

"Have you spoken to your mate of this?" Alexia shrugged helplessly so the woman looked to Lydia.

"Only that border raiders took her virginity and killed her family."

The older woman nodded. "So much tragedy in one day. You must have felt as though your world ended." Alexia shut her eyes tightly, trying to will away the memories that threatened to overwhelm her. "What did you do?"

"Nothing, absolutely nothing," Alexia's voice was cold. "I buried my family and met Donald. We joined Leslie's army so I could kill as many bloody Englishmen I could."

"And did you kill many?" the old woman asked, curious.

"One. I was taken prisoner after that," she spat.

"You are upset over that, why?" The old woman already knew the answer but wanted Alexia to say it aloud.

Alexia's labored breathing was the only sign of her internal struggle. "Because I wanted to die and end the pain."

"But if you had died, you wouldn't have met my grandchild," Wepaesee reminded her gently. At the mention of Lydia, Alexia visibly relaxed and smiled. "We don't always get what we wish, but rather, what we need. We all walk the path before us. I believe if you hadn't met Lydia, we wouldn't have been united. Where do you think your path would have led to if not for those raiders?"

Alexia grunted out a humorless laugh. "Married to some farm boy with several children by now."

"Would you have been happy?"

"Nay, I never wanted to marry but there was little choice for women."

"So, now you are independent and married to a woman who adores you. What more do you desire?"

"Children," Alexia said simply, unaware she had wanted them as well until this moment.

One of Lydia's female cousins brought over woven platters to the three women. Wepaesee said something that Alexia believed to be a thank you in Wampanoag so she echoed the words. The cousin smiled brightly and walked away. The platters contained a small quail and an assortment of vegetables as well as an item she couldn't identify. Asking grandmother Wepaesee, she found it was cattail root flour, pollen, and maple syrup baked together on hot stones. Tasting the unleavened biscuit, she found it interesting.

Another woman brought Inshapae a bowl of food. She resembled the boy and was probably his mother. She ruffled his hair and departed, leaving the boy looking peeved. Lydia thought about the boy and asked him a question.

"Inshapae, where did you learn to speak English so well?"

The boy finished chewing his food politely then answered. "From the Jesuit priest near our village. He had hoped I would convert once I learned English well enough." The slight smirk on his face told the story, that he learned what he needed from the priest and left, his people's faith intact.

Alexia chuckled and thought the boy was too smart for his own good. Had he been white, he would no doubt would have become a businessman or politician.

"Why do you laugh?" the boy asked, wondering if he should be offended.

Alexia grinned, "Because I think ye are a very smart boy who will one day become a great man. I was laughing at the foolishness of the priest, not at ye."

The boy relaxed. He was at an age where soon he would take his manhood test and didn't want to be treated as a child. The respect in the warrior woman's eyes meant a lot to him. If she saw greatness in his future, it must be so.

"Kuttabotomish," he said with a grin.

"Ye are welcomed," Alexia grinned back.

The seamstress lowered the hem of her deerskin dress and stepped out from the bushes. Her eyes caught sight of something that made her freeze in fear.

Alexia was at the edge of the pond and wondered why Lydia was just standing there by the trees. She seemed to be looking at something. Curious, she walked over to her still mate.

"Don't move!" Lydia hissed, waving her back. The redhead looked down and saw a black furry creature about the size of smaller dog. It didn't seem very threatening. It was sniffing at a rotting log without a care in the world. It had the oddest white stripe though. Curious, she stepped closer to the animal.

"Alexia! Don't!" she whispered in panic to the Scots woman.

"What? It looks harmless enough." She bent down and touched the fearless creature. Lydia couldn't look and closed her eyes.

"Aren't ye a friendly thing?" she heard her spouse say. Cautiously, she reopened her eyes. Alexia was standing there, holding the skunk in her arms. Lydia's eyes grew huge as her tall lover stepped closer, wanting to know if she wanted to pet it.

"No! Just put it down and step away, slowly!" Lydia pleaded.

A child behind them squealed. A girl of about seven ran up to the towering redhead and held out her hands. Alexia placed the furry animal in her arms. The girl said something and rushed off with her pet.

Turning back to face her spouse, Alexia noted how pale she had become. "Come sweet Lydia, let's get ye back into the shade, ye dinna look well."

Lydia's kin laughed as Inshapae translated. They were amused by the red haired woman's naivety. Several spoke at once, trying to educate her on the nature of skunks.

The boy shushed them and explained. "Wild skunks have glands that squirt foul liquid when they are frightened. Gasehnah's pet has had this removed so was harmless. You do not want to pet a skunk in the forest," he chuckled.

"How bad could this liquid be?" Alexia asked, unimpressed by the warnings.

Her wife spoke up. "The stench is so foul that you would be sleeping outdoors for weeks. I'd not let you near me until it went away," her voice serious.

"Weeks?" the redhead gulped. Everyone nodded sagely. "Any other creatures I ought to know about?" The crowd laughed.

Somehow, Lydia managed to convince her aunt and grandmother to join her in town for the weekly sewing circle. They all got into the carriage, toting examples of their sewing and supplies. The seamstress wanted to learn more of their techniques for she had a project in mind. Then too, she wanted her friends in town to get to know them. Inshapae wasn't happy about the trip but no female among his people spoke the English well enough to act as translator. He sat behind Alexia on her gelding. It took the promise of buying the lad a steel knife at the market to get his co-operation.

The couple reminded everyone to refer to Alexia as 'Alex' and 'he'. The ex soldier was a bit nervous about the trip but didn't tell Lydia of her misgivings. What if the boy slipped?

Phineas raised his wiry eyebrows at their arrival. Alexia made the introductions. Given the fact that the women from the sewing group wouldn't arrive for another hour or so, Lydia suggested they do a bit of shopping then tour their upstairs rooms. The redhead gave her wife a kiss on the cheek and asked her not to spend all their money in one place. Lydia chuckled since her spouse knew full well that she was a spendthrift. They all waved goodbye and headed for the market.

"Your wife's aunt certainly resembles her. She's a fine looking woman for her age. It bodes well if Lydia ages with the same grace," Master Douglas said with a twinkle in his eye.

"Now Mr. Douglas, I thought yer attention was on Widow Greer," the redhead admonished her teasingly.

"My attention yes, but that doesn't mean I am blind! I just happen to appreciate God's female version of humanity, that is all," he said, trying to look pious. Alexia bit her lip while hanging her outer coat on a peg. She started the fire for the glass ovens and began crushing limestone.

"Mr. Douglas, I know ye never married, but hae ye ever regretted having no bairns?"

"Children?" The Glazier scratched his head and sat at the work table. "Sometimes, then I see someone's child misbehaving and I then thank the good Lord for allowing me to escape fatherhood." Phineas chuckled but Alexia could hear the echo of regret behind his words.

"May I ask why the sad face young Mr. Browne? I know you and Lydia have been together almost two years, but children may yet come. It is God's will," he reminded her.

"Nay, I canna father children Master Douglas," Alexia told him.

"Are you certain? Sometimes-"

"I am certain. An herbalist told me so," Alexia said, sticking to the story she and Lydia had invented.

"Ah, that is sad. Still, we never know God's plans for us."

The boy sighed, bored silly. They women were busy learning the Wampanoag way of using quills to make designs. They spoke little other than asking questions, intent of the job at hand. His stomach growled. He walked to the window stared out of it, watching the people walk by.

Lydia noticed his restlessness. "Inshapae, take this," handing him some coins, "and drag that stubborn spouse of mine to the market. He hates shopping but rarely stops for a meal during the day."

Grateful for an excuse to go outdoors, he rushed down the stairs. He found Alexia with a strange reed in her mouth, blowing out a round shiny thing. He was curious and reached out to touch it, not realizing it was molten glass. The redhead saw him reaching for it and carefully pulled it out of harms way. Once satisfied with the size, she separated the metal tube from the glass, placing it on a divot to cool. A few deft touches with her tool beveled the edges.

"Tis hot glass I was forming lad, I dinna want ye burned," she explained, careful to keep her tone mild in respect for the boy's pride.

"What are you making?"

"When I am finished, it will be a perfume bottle. Perfume is a scented oil," she added. "Bored with the lasses already?"

"Aye," the boy said, imitating his favorite Colonist. "Lydia handed me these coins and told me to have you eat."

Alexia looked at the coins, noticing enough to feed the entire group. No doubt she was hinting that everyone was hungry. "Let me tell Master Douglas that I am leaving and I'll be ready to go wi' ye." She asked her employer if he'd like anything while they were out, offering to buy his meal as well. Phineas thanked him and asked for a loaf of bread and an apple. He had some ale in the back room he had told her, winking naughtily. Alexia chuckled and promised to return soon.

They picked out an assortment of foods, the redhead politely asking the boy's preferences. The young man carried the wicker basket, determined to carry the heavy thing manfully.

"Before we head back, let's pick out the knife I promised ye," she suggested. The boy grinned and followed the tall redhead towards the shop.

A nasty voice spoke behind them. "Look at that, he even has one of those filthy primitives following him around!" Alexia spun around, furious. She spotted Ruth standing there with her husband. People passing by stopped and stared.

"I'll thank ye to speak wi' a civil tongue in yer head Ruth Matherson."

"Why should I hold my tongue? It is bad enough you allow them to roam freely on your land, but now you bring them here? Decent people shouldn't have to mingle with the ignorant savages."

Alexia's smile was feral. "Ye are correct. The Wampanoag shouldn't have to deal wi' the likes of ye. Come lad, the ladies are hungry and we have shopping to finish yet," she said good-naturedly, putting her arm about the native's shoulders. The apprentice heard several snickers over her comment. She also heard the insufferable woman gasping in outrage behind her. It probably wouldn't be the last encounter with the bitch, but for now, she got in the last word.

The interpreter was more puzzled than hurt over the confrontation. He had become accustomed to the attitudes of superiority when he was learning English from the priest. When one was convinced your way was better, little could be done to change it. What made the boy curious was the way she spoke to the woman. He had sensed the anger from the tall redhead and actually expected her to lash out at the offensive female. Instead, she had leashed the anger and expressed amusement.

"Alex, you were angry at this Ruth person, correct?"


"Then why did you agree with her?"

The ex soldier laughed. "Inshapae, ye understand English but nae the subtlety behind the words. I told her and everyone listening that she was the ignorant savage, not ye. That is why many laughed. I had insulted her with skill and not lost my temper. Remember, I am thought of as a man, and striking out at the 'weaker' sex is unseemly. Besides, she is wed and it is up to her husband to discipline her."

"You never strike Lydia, do you?"

"Nay, I love her with all my heart and would never harm her. Remember this my young friend, in spite of how some may treat you, in God's eyes, all are equal. People just forget that."

The boy pondered her words.

Phineas allowed the young man to join them once the townswomen left for the day. Lydia and her relatives left in the carriage to enjoy the rest of the mild day outdoors. The three of them chatted as the young man watched them work.

"I think I'm beginning to understand the relationships in Wampanoag society now, but you didn't tell me how you are related to Lydia." Phineas commented.

"I am not. I am merely the one who translates for her kin. I have no family other than my younger brother," the boy said sadly.

"I see," Master Douglas said, clearly confused.

The redhead studied the young man's face. "Inshapae, what happened to your family?"

"They were killed by the spotting sickness."

"Who watches over you and your brother now?" Alexia asked, wondering why they didn't mind the boy being sent here and there by other people.

"No one. I brought him with me and Comochiem watches Ganuite for me during the day. Once we return home, I will care for him. I am a good hunter and will provide all he needs until he too is a man," he said confidently.

Alexia was silent most of the way home, allowing the boy to ramble on without really listening. They got home near sunset and the youth took off towards the camp over the hill to eat. The Wampanoag usually went to sleep when the sun went down.

Absentmindedly, she unsaddled the horse and entered their cabin. Lydia's eyes lit up at her return, and greeted her with a hug and kiss.

"What is wrong?" the perceptive woman asked.

The redhead settled her long frame in the chair and let out a tired breath. "I have a lot on my mind. It involves both of us."

Nodding, Lydia poured two cups of tea and sat down. "Tell me."

"When we first married, it all seemed so simple. Looking back, I should have realized we wouldn't be able to pretend I was a boy for much longer." Alexia paused, making Lydia's heart to pound fearfully.

"Has someone found out?" she asked, grabbing her hand.

"Nay, but it is a matter of time. Lydia, how many 'men' my age have a smooth face? I caught Mary Elizabeth eying my cheeks this afternoon. Oh, we could move to another place and pretend I am younger, but how many times could we do this? Eventually neither of us will have the flush of young adults and someone will discover our secret."

The seamstress grew more panicked as her spouse spoke. "Alexia, what are you trying to tell me? Please don't say you want to part ways, I couldn't stand losing you!"

Alexia stood quickly and gathered the smaller woman into her arms. "Nay sweet Lydia, I could never leave ye, I would rather die." She spent several minutes snuggling with her wife, comforting her.

"I was thinking about yer kin. Their lands are far from any English settlement if I understand it right. I was thinking about living with them."

"What? Are you serious dearling?" Lydia didn't know what to think. It was all so sudden.

"There is something else as well?" Alexia had a strange look on her face that Lydia couldn't decipher. She nodded, prompting her to continue.

"Inshapae is an orphan and has a younger brother. No one is caring for them." The redhead squirmed and didn't meet her eyes. "I want to adopt them," she said in a quiet rush.

"Adopt them? Leave our home? I thought Inshapae had a mother. The woman who brought him food yesterday. And why move away and live with them?"

"Lydia, there isn't any other options that I can think of. Och, I even considered resuming my life as a woman, but what then? We will still need to leave Boston. We would be like two spinsters living together. Do ye wish to remarry? "

"No! I am your wife! How could you ask such a question?"

"What would people think if two women moved into their community and refused prospective husbands? I'll tell ye what they'd think, that the women were either of loose morals or something worse. Lydia, what job skills do I hae as a woman? None. I could perhaps wash clothing or become a servant in someone's home. Do ye want to live that way again?"

Lydia shook her head. Alexia took her hands in her own. "Sweetheart, I want ye to think about this. I want to leave before my secret is out, and I doubt we'll hae many more months before it does."

Alexia stood and scooped put stew from the pot onto a plate but she merely toyed with it, her appetite gone. They crawled into bed and snuggled close. They got little sleep that night.

Lydia spoke to Inshapae the next day, along with her grandmother. She asked the boy if he was truly an orphan with no one to care for him. The boy nodded and explained about the woman who fed him the other day. She was a distant cousin. She had wished to take them in but her husband had refused because they already had four children of their own and he could barely provide for them.

As the only person available to translate, Lydia had no choice but to use the young man in order to speak with Wepaesee.

"My spouse has expressed a desire to live with your people grandmother." The seamstress had no idea what the woman thought, her face expressionless.

"And you child, what do you wish?"

"I don't know. I've come to love you all, but we have made a home here." She sighed, trying to explain it well. "Alexia cannot pass as a young man much longer. Her voice doesn't deepen, no beard grows on her cheeks. Soon, others will realize something is wrong and discover her secret. If that happens, we shudder to think what they might do to us. At the very least, we will be separated.

"She doesn't want to move away and live as a woman again. She has much more freedom as a man." Lydia rubbed her face with her palms. "What really upsets me is that we just settle in and she wants to move again. I want to be with her but it means never staying in one place for long. I feel so confused," she confessed.

"That, my granddaughter, is because you do not follow your Wampanoag heart. You place value on things and places, rather than on those who live in your heart. Our people move with the seasons, following the Great Spirits' bounty. My child, what has brought you more happiness? Your mate or possessions?"

"Alexia," Lydia whispered.

"Then follow your true heart child. All that is important is the circle of love and friendships that surround you, the rest is trivial."

Lydia relaxed, knowing at gut level her grandmother was right. She had just needed to see it. But there was still one other matter. "Alexia expressed a wish to adopt Inshapae and his brother," she said.

The boy didn't translate, his eyes were wide in wonder. "She wishes me to be part of your family?" he asked. Lydia smiled and nodded. He sat there stunned until Wepaesee nudged him. He shakily passed on her words.

"So, my granddaughter found herselfa mate who already has the heart of the People. I like her better each day." The older woman saw the exhaustion on her young face. "Why don't you return to your dwelling, you are tired," she suggested. Lydia stood and wished her grandmother a pleasant morning, heading back to the cabin.

Inshapae couldn't sit still, his excitement too much to bear. Lydia was asleep and the boy wouldn't borrow her horse without permission, so he began running, heading towards the English settlement. The miles flew by steadily, his feet as swift and his heart light.

Once into town, he didn't see the Colonialists stare at the running Indian boy, his focus was only for the Glazier shop just a few seconds away. The door latch was barely a minor setback. He flung open the door and rushed towards the large warrior woman.

Alexia spun around at the violently opened door and spotted Inshapae. His eyes were bright and his smile stretching his face shyly. She didn't need to be told that Lydia had spilled the beans. Returning his radiant smile, she held open her arms. The boy flew into them, wrapping his lanky arms tightly about her waist, his face buried into her chest. He trembled as she held him, more boy than man as his emotions overwhelmed him. He had found place to belong.

Alexia rubbed his back, pleased the boy accepted her as a parent. Indulgently, she allowed him to cling for quite a while.

Phineas stepped into the shop and spotted the two of them embracing. "What have we here? Inshapae? Is something the matter?"

Boy and woman chuckled.

"Nay," Alexia answered for them. "Nothing is wrong. It seems Lydia spoiled my surprise," she said softly, no anger evident in her tone. "Master Douglas, meet our new son, Inshapae," she grinned, ruffling his long dark stripe of hair.

"Well bless my buttons! He's the biggest baby I've ever seen, but I guess you'll keep him anyway. Congratulations to all of you," Phineas said kindly, pleased for them. The three of them laughed, releasing the emotions that threatened their stoic manhood.

"I think this calls for a celebration. Is your wife here?" The Glazier asked, looking around.

"Nay, she was tired and went back to bed. I ran here," the boy informed them.

"Well, perhaps we could have a tiny drop of ale at the tavern, just the three of us. I'll close the shop. What do you say Mr. Browne?"

"Sounds fine to me. But lets keep this young scallywag away from the brew and give him cider instead. He's happy enough wi' out it."

The tavern had a fine Scottish whiskey in stock. Alexia sipped the dark amber liquid, savoring the mellow flavoring gotten from being aged in oak barrels. The tavern keeper's wife was a bonnie thing, fussing over the boy as she served them their dinner. She didn't even fuss at Inshapae's lack of clothing. All he had worn into town was his loincloth and moccasins.

Alexia had ordered the boy food he could eat with his fingers, knowing from experience that they didn't use utensils other than spoons to eat, although Inshapae had tried them before and thought them silly. The two adults ordered bread trenchers of lamb stew and currant pudding.

Watching the men finish off their meal by eating their 'bowls', the boy could only wonder what other oddities the English practiced. Done with his meal, he looked about the two story building more closely. The tavern seemed to be a gathering place of sorts.Many people chatted, both men and women. Some looked at him curiously, a few were less than friendly about it. Especially the one Alexia had called Ruth. She was standing on the upper floor that overlooked the larger dining area, her eyes full of hatred. Phineas noticed him staring up and followed his gaze.

"Why does that woman always look as though she suckled vinegar instead of milk as a baby?"

The former soldier choked on her whiskey. She grabbed a linen napkin and mopped up the splattered drink and the front of her waistcoat. "Master Douglas, are ye trying to kill me with yer humor?"

"No, but am I wrong about her? She never smiles. Neither does her husband. Both did the world a favor by marrying. Now only two souls are miserable instead of four."

Alexia burst out laughing. "Blessed Mary, save me from this man! Let us be on our way Master Douglas, before the she devil comes down the stairs and ruins a perfectly happy occasion," she suggested.

Lydia moaned as her lover stroked her buttocks under the bath water. She sat astride Alexia's strong thighs as the redhead teased her breasts. Gasping as teeth gently raked her nipple, she tugged on the damp red hair and begged her spouse to take her to bed before ravishing her.

Alexia laughed and managed to stand up with her small wife in her arms. She stepped out of the tub and grabbed a blanket from the stool and tossed it sloppily onto the dining table.

"I'd rather have ye as supper since we keep forgetting to eat," she growled, setting her wife onto the sturdy table. Lydia didn't get a chance to protest as her tall lover pressed her backwards and began nuzzling her stomach. Large hands lifted her thighs and pushed them apart. Knowing others were still awake over the hill, the seamstress forced herself not to cry out as warm lips traveled along her body. Sometimes relatives could be a burden, she thought just before her world exploded.

The figure walked quietly towards the dark cabin. The path was lit only by the moon above, but it was enough. A bucket was placed on the ground carefully. Looking around, the intruder made sure no one was awake and took the handled brush from inside the wooden bucket. Black pitch was quietly painted around the doorframe. Satisfied, the person removed a flint striker and set the door on fire.

Alexia felt something burning her nostrils and woke from a sound sleep. She was wrapped around her wife, who was sleeping deeply. It took several seconds to realize something was terribly wrong. Bright flames from the door nearly blinded her dark adjusted eyes. Panic forced her fully awake and she shook Lydia frantically.

"Lydia! Wake up! The cabin is on fire!" she shouted. Alexia grabbed her breeches and shirt, donning them quickly even as she tossed her wife her clothing. "We've got to get out of here!" the redhead shouted, wondering how they'd evenmake it out. The windows were too small to escape through.

The flames were huge on the one side of the cabin, and engulfed the only doorway out. Looking around, she spotted the farming equipment that stood in the corner. Grabbing an axe, she wondered if she could chop open a window wide enough in the sturdily built walls. Pushing aside the doubt, she began hacking away at the window furthest from the fire, her powerful muscles fueled by adrenaline. She could hear Lydia behind her, choking on the black smoke.

"Lydia! Grab the quilt and soak it in the tub! It's still full of water. Cover yerself up!"

"What about you?" she cried.

"Just do it!" she screamed, her hands still swinging the large axe. The window was starting to split where she struck it. Dust from the breaking clayish mud made the already sooty air worse. Tears ran from her eyes but she kept swinging, praying it wasn't too late.

Lydia wrapped the wet covering around her and grabbed a kettle. Maybe she could hold back the flames with the bath water. She began pitching water at the closest part of the fire. It did little if anything to hold back the flames, but it was better than just standing there helpless. She screamed and hopped backwards when a log from the wall came tumbling down, shooting flaming ashes throughout the room. She tipped over the tub and poured what little remained on the floor. Both women were coughing, the air growing too foul to breathe. They had little time left.

A large fissure formed and crackled loudly. Encouraged, the redhead pounded the axe head harder into the wood and tried prying it apart. Her heart was beating so hard that she didn't realize at first that someone was battering the wall from the other side. The wall spilt and parted as a log was forced through. She tossed the axe aside and grabbed her wife, lifting her up into the opening first. The hole was small. She'd have a hard time fitting through it.

Part of the roof caved in. Hot coals stung her skin. She could hear Lydia screaming for her on the other side. Slipping one leg through, Alexia felt hands grabbing her and pulling. Something burst inside the cabin and a heavy object struck her side. The tall woman screamed from the pain just as she was pulled outside, wood scraping her skin. Free of the wall, she fell to the ground even as it starting crumbling in fiery pieces. Hands helped her to her feet and she was half dragged, half carried away from the collapsing cabin. They were safe. With that thought, she passed out.

Alexia needed a healer and quickly. Lydia wouldn't send for the town's doctor, terrified that he'd reveal their secret. Understanding this, one of the men was sent on a horse to the nearest Wampanoag village. In the meantime, they'd do what they could.

They removed the large splinters from her body and cleaned her burns with cool well water. Her bleeding wounds were bound and willow bark tea was forced down her throat. A large bruise swelled her ribs. They feared they were broken for her breathing was labored.

Lydia remained at her side, leaving only to answer the call of nature. Other than mild burns on her feet and some coughing, she was fine.

Inshapae would go inside and sit with her, equally worried for his adoptive parent. How could something like this happen? He heard some of the elders speaking. The fire had to have been set on purpose, for the flames could not come from a cold fireplace. Anger burned within his heart. If he found out who did this, he would seek vengeance. It was within his rights.

He heard a commotion outside the hastily built wetu. Lydia seemed uninterested. He left her side and went outdoors. Phineas Douglas was there, upset by the burnt ruins he saw.

"Lad! What has happened? Where are Alex and Lydia?" he asked fearfully.

Wepaesee joined him and told him to bring the Englishman with him. They would speak privately. She headed for the clearing near the crops.

Phineas didn't see his apprentice or his wife and his heart was racing with despair. Had they died in the fire?

Lydia's grandmother motioned him to sit on a log and she joined him. Inshapae remained standing.

"You are a friend to my granddaughter and her mate?" she asked, wanting to see his answer in his eyes. He nodded and asked where they were and what happened. She held out her hand, ignoring his concerned questions for now.

"Someone does not feel kindly towards them Mr. Douglas. They are in great danger and it is not from my people, but yours."

"I don't understand, tell me what is happening!" he pleaded.

"I first want something from you Mr. Douglas. A promise."

"Anything, just tell me what has happened," he begged tearfully.

"What you learn this day must never be revealed. Do you promise upon your God?"


"Someone burned their cabin last night. They barely got out before it was destroyed." She hesitated before continuing. "My granddaughter's mate was seriously hurt and may not survive," she said with tears threatening to overcome her.

"Where is he? I want to see him," Phineas demanded, standing up.


"What? What are you talking about?"

"Alex is a woman Mr. Douglas. There is no possibility you could see her and not discover this."

Wepaesee was prepared to order his death if his eyes said he would not keep his word or if he condemned her newly found family.

Phineas sat with a weak thud. "A woman? I…I'll be damned. A woman!" he repeated.

"Do you wish to see her?"

"Yes, I do," he said, still reeling from the shock. She asked him to wait a few moments while she spoke with Lydia. Inshapae would escort him.

She entered the wetu and placed her hand softly on Lydia's shoulder. "Mr. Douglas wants to see her. He knows, I told him."

Her granddaughter took a deep breath and nodded her head. She slowly got to her feet, her limbs stiff from the long hours sitting on the matted floor. She picked up a skin and covered her wife's body. Inshapae called softly, asking if they could enter. Wepaesee gave her permission and they stooped, entering the wetu.

Phineas' eyes bounced between each of them, trying to decide whom to approach first. Alex…Alexia was not awake, so he stepped closer to his apprentice's wife.

"Lydia, are you alright? When Alex didn't show up for work this morning, I grew worried. I came out here to make sure you were both well." He sighed, sorry that his worries were well founded.

"I'm fine, but Alexia…" she burst into tears. The aging glazier felt his own eyes water in sympathy. He pulled her closer and hugged her awkwardly. She gripped his coat and wept for several minutes as he patted her back. He was unsure what to do with an upset woman. He looked towards the older woman and she smiled weakly, taking Lydia's hand and guiding her to the bench on the other side of the wetu.

Looking carefully for the first time at Alexia, Phineas wondered how he was fooled all this time. Long red-gold lashes fanned her cheeks, full lips were slightly parted, and the labored rise of generous breasts under the skin made it apparent she was female. Thinking back, it must have been the tale of how he…she got the scar that made it so convincing. He wondered how she really got it. No woman would join and fight in an army!

"What is wrong with her? Has anyone sent for a doctor yet?"

Lydia shook her head. "Mr. Douglas, you and I both know Doctor Steuvart would not keep this a secret. We've sent for a healer from one of the Wampanoag villages. Grandmother reassures me they are quite skilled."

"Do us a service Mr. Douglas, return to Boston and don't say a word. If anyone asks, tell them you gave him time off to visit with my family yesterday. The only person who knows about the fire is the person or persons who set it. One of the men found a bucket outside the ruins. It was coated with pine pitch. Once they realized they failed, they may try again."

"You will let me know if there's any changes?"

"Yes, and thank you." She leaned forward and kissed his scruffy cheek. He blushed and said his goodbyes.

The Glazier saw Ruth enter the dry goods store so he closed his shop and strolled over there. He'd buy some trivial item as an excuse. The only person who had motive was the she devil as far as he knew. He entered the shop and headed in the opposite direction of the woman.

He looked over the assortment of handmade candles, listening to her footsteps as she neared him.

"Hello Mr. Douglas, how are you this fine morning?" she asked cheerfully.

""I'm quite good Mrs. Matherson. And you?"

"Equally good. I went by your shop earlier but neither you nor Mr. Browne was there and the building locked," she subtly asked.

"I gave him several days off to visit his wife's family before they left. Since I didn't have any orders for today, I visited one of my suppliers this morning. I'm sorry you were inconvenienced Mrs. Matherson." He said dryly.

"Oh, it was alright. I was just curious to see if anything new was available. Well, perhaps later Mr. Douglas." She patted his forearm with her hand. He spotted several specks of something black on her skin. He spun around, barely able to control the violence that threatened to erupt from him. He knew with little doubt she was the arsonist.

Pale red gold lashes fluttered open to reveal pain ridden green eyes which looked confused.Lydia lifted herself to her knees and took a pale hand, holding it to her bosom.

"Alexia? Can you hear me dearling?"

The redhead blinked several times and tried to focus, her mind muddled. "Lydia?" she managed to croak out, her throat raw and dry, every breath felt like fire.

"Are you thirsty?" Not waiting for an answer, she filled a cup from the crock of water. Helping her spouse to lift her head, Lydia held the cup to her lips, allowing her to sip the cool liquid. The slight movement took what little energy she possessed. She was once more unconscious.

She wanted to scream the next time she woke, the agony driving her from the rest she needed. Lydia was immediately at her side. Nightmares and half remembered images haunted her every moment.

Her breathing was no more than gasping little pants, the most she could handle. "Lydia," she hissed. Her wife's hands took hers, feeling icy in comparison to her fevered state. "Lydia, I'm not sure I'm-"

"No!" the seamstress cried softly, "Don't even say it."

"I hae to sweet Lydia. Promise me, if I die, ye will go to the Wampanoags. Take Inshapae and his brother wi' ye. Don't leave them alone in this world." Cold fingers lightly squeezed Lydia's hand. "Ye and I, we both ken understand what it is like, being alone. Promise me Lydia," Alexia begged, her voice cracking pitifully.

"I promise dearling."

Her next moment of awareness, Alexia found herself in the middle of some sort of ceremony. A man was dressed in elaborate skins and chanting something softly. An item in his hand was smoking lightly, giving off an herbal scent. Something was bound about her ribs and her breathing was easier. Unable to keep her eyes open, she drifted back to sleep, feeling somehow comforted.

"Granddaughter, why don't you sleep on the mat? That is what it is for," the elderly woman suggested.

"Grandmother, when we come to live with the Wampanoag, the wetu must be made with a wide bench for sleeping," her tone annoyed.

The woman chuckled and asked why, since her people slept around the fire. It was more sensible than a bench against a drafty wall.

"Because, my place is in her arms when we sleep."

Wepaesee didn't comment on the odd custom of the English, instead, she asked another question. "You have made up your mind child? You will join your father's people?"

"Yes. We don't fit in anymore. We'll probably have much to grow used to with the Wampanoag, but at least we know we are accepted."

"And loved," Inshapae added, his tone painfully shy. Lydia smiled and hugged the bashful young man close, tucking his head under her chin.

"And loved," she repeated.

"I dinna want any more of that vile medicine," the redhead complained. She sent her wife a disgruntled look when her protest was ignored and the clay bowl was held to her lips.

"Drink it," Lydia told her firmly, "You may hate it but you're getting better, so it must be working." She watched as Alexia sipped the bitter liquid down, her face the perfect picture of disgust. The seamstress did her best not to grin at the comical expression. Once the bowl was empty, she brushed away an errant drop from her lower lip. "There, now you can have some real food. I have some roasted rabbit and steamed corn."

Alexia heard her stomach rumble from hunger. Lydia told her she had been delirious for almost a week. During that time, she had been given nothing but broths and medicines and her body now craved more. She was still weak as a newborn kitten and couldn't even move without causing herself a lot of pain.

She watched Lydia pick up a pottery dish and pick up a piece of meat with her fingers. The morsel was brought to her lips. Looking up at her wife's face, she took the meat and chewed it slowly. Alexia noticed for the first time how tired Lydia looked. Dark circles under her eyes made her appear haggard and the normal sparkle was missing from her eyes. Helpless guilt tugged at her heart, knowing Lydia hadn't been taking care of her own needs. Her appetite disappeared.

Lydia saw the lack of enthusiasm for the food. "Not hungry? Dearling, please eat. You need the nutrition to get better." Her eyes pleaded. Alexia finished the meal but it sat like lead in her stomach. She felt like crying, the helplessness of everything overwhelming her. Never had she been this weak or confused. It had all seemed so effortless before, even when she had been wounded at Dunbar.

"What's wrong dearling?"

Alexia sniffled, holding back the tears and shaking her head slightly, refusing to speak. Her wife caressed her cheek, threatening her control. "Tell me," she begged gently.

The words escaped before she could stop them. "I miss ye," she confessed, a tear streaking down one cheek.

"I'm right here Alexia."

"But ye aren't here," she said, weakly holding out her arm. Lydia understood. She carefully lowered herself and snuggled up against Alexia's unwounded side. Her wife's arm wrapped around her shoulder as both of them let out a sigh of relief. Within moments, both women were sound asleep.

Phineas snuck over to their land on Sunday, bringing along some supplies that he had bought on the far side of town. He didn't want anyone knowing what he was doing and asking questions. The bitch Ruth seemed to be watching him, always nearby when he left his shop. Her smug attitude irritated him to no end.

He managed to placate the ladies of the sewing circle, allowing them to use the couple's loft rooms. Ruth even joined them that day, saying she wanted to apologize to Lydia. Phineas had snapped the piece he was working on as he watched her put on her act. The ladies had bought the story, expressing their sympathy that Lydia wasn't here this week.

When he arrived, a Wampanoag he'd never seen before stepped up to him, greeting him in English.

"Hello, I am Waschteka, and you must be Mr. Douglas," he said pleasantly.

"Yes." He answered, racking his memory until he recalled the name. "You were the first Wampanoag Alexia met, last Spring."

The man nodded. "When word reached me, I could not remain so far away. It saddens me that one would punish my friends for their kindness to my people. He must be one filled with much hatred to do such an act."

"She." The Indian looked surprised. Phineas stepped closer and took the man's arm, leading him away from the milling watchers. "I think I know who did it. A woman. I promised I would speak to no one in town, but this I think your people ought to know. The problem is, only Inshapae knows this person's face and I think he shouldn't know who it is. The boy is angry enough to seek revenge," he warned.

"But it is his right despite his youth," the man said, confused why the Englishman wanted the boy kept from the knowledge.

"Trust me on this. Our friends want their secret kept. Exposing this woman or seeking revenge would bring it out into the open. There is enough trouble brewing between our peoples without adding fuel to the fire. The good book says that God will judge her one day and that will have to be good enough. In the meantime, I brought a few supplies with me. They lost everything in the fire."

Waschteka was still thinking over his words as they walked, his eyes missing the furious looking young man hunkered behind the trees.

The young man wrestled with the opposing ideas and ideals. It was within his rights to avenge the attack on his adoptive parents, but he didn't want to cause them further grief. He had met three women that day and only the Ruth woman had displayed a hatred for the couple. He kicked at a rotting log, frustrated. He hated feeling trapped. He wished he could speak to someone about it. Then he brightened. He could go to Wepaesee since she was now his family. She was a wise woman and would speak truthfully to him.

He found her by the pond rinsing her cooking pots. He waited patiently until she shook the quanooask of excess water and put it down.

"Your face looks as dark as thunderstorm Inshapae. What is it that troubles you?"

"I heard Mr. Douglas speak of the woman who tried to kill Alexia and Lydia."

The old woman didn't reply immediately. She took a skin and wiped the pot dry, thinking. "And you wish to find this woman?"

"Yes, but I also heard him speak of the dangers of seeking her out. I don't want her to go unpunished, but what of the price? What should I do grandmother?"

"Far be it from me to tell a young man not to be a man. But, if I had such a dilemma, I think I would find a clever way of punishing her. Sometimes the most fatal wound is but a scratch. Satisfy your need to seek revenge without bringing attention to your family. That is all I can suggest." With that, she struggled to her feet and walked away.

Inshapae walked towards the forest, needing to think.

Ruth Matherson collected her dried laundry from the line and brought it inside. She folded it all carefully but put aside her favorite outfit. She wanted to look her best before going into town. It had been over a week since Phineas had given Alex Browne time to visit with his primitive kinfolks. By now, the Glazier should be worried about his apprentice not returning. No one had said anything about it in town so the fire had been undiscovered as yet. She grinned, plotting on ways to subtly suggest perhaps something had happened. Once the burned cabin was found, she was going to blame the savages for murdering them.

It wouldn't take much to get the townsfolk into a frenzy. They'd drive the heathens so far into the forests that they'd never return. Chuckling, she slipped off her sweaty underclothing and pulled a fresh shift over her head. She was redressing when an itch began bothering her. Within minutes, the itch began burning. Gasping, she quickly undressed. She screamed as she noticed swelling welts and rash were covering her skin. Looking into the looking glass, she saw her face was even puffing up. Frightened, she screamed again.

Someone pounded on her front door and called out her name.

"Ruth! Are you alright?" came the voice of her neighbor, Ephraim Vickers. She rushed to the door but refused to open it.

"Please! Fetch the doctor!" The man promised to return immediately and left. Doctor Sturtevant arrived within minutes, asking her to unbolt her door. Hearing the latch being pulled back, he entered the small house. It didn't take long to make a prognosis.

"Poison Ivy or Oak Mrs. Matherson. See this?" He held up her shift with a stick. "It somehow came in contact with it." He dropped the offending garment on the floor." I'll be back shortly with some ointment, but you will be itching for a long time until it heals."

"I can't excuse your absence much longer Alexia. People are questioning me already. Mary Elizabeth has already mentioned coming over here tomorrow," Phineas warned the couple.

Waschteka translated then suggested they pack up and leave. The men would build a litter and carry Alexia to their winter grounds. As much as the redhead hated the idea of being jostled she had to agree.

"Alright, but I want to do something first. Phineas, do you know someone you could ask to sign as a witness to a contract even if he wasn't there to see the signing?"

The man scratched his nape, thinking. "Yes, I think I can find someone. Why?"

"Do you have a paper and quill?"

Phineas stared at the paper, reading it once more.

I, Alexander Browne, on this 18th day of May in the year of our Lord 1654, do swear before the following witnesses my last will and testament. All that I own, including my clothing, tools, and land is to be left to my eldest child. In the event that I have no issue, my property will be left to my wife, Lydia Browne. If she should pass on before me, my properties are to be left to my good master, Phineas Douglas, Glazier, Boston.

Alexia had signed and dated it for earlier that year with Lydia's signature below his own. The charred remains would be found, and Alex and Lydia Browne would be assumed dead. Phineas grinned. The Wampanoag certainly won't be blamed for their deaths, he made certain of that. A dirty and slightly burned piece of a material would be found caught on the tree trunk that stood near the cabin. Material that matched that of someone's favorite and uniquely patterned skirt.

Oh, it wouldn't be enough to prove anything, but people would wonder why someone who had been insulted by Alex Browne would be on their property. He had handed it to Inshapae after his trip to fetch the writing materials. The boy had approached him with an idea. The plan was perfect but the adoptive son of the couple couldn't perform it himself. An Indian would be noticed walking through town, so he had asked him to do the deed. Phineas had been happy to do so.

The boy had grinned knowingly when he looked at the scrap of cloth. The circle of their revenge was complete.

Phineas had found one of his drinking buddies to sign the paper. He had been so intoxicated that Phineas doubted the man would even remember it. He hid the paper inside the bible upstairs and left his shop.

The End

Author's note: The story could have gone on and on, but I felt it was time for an ending. I hope you enjoyed the story.

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