To Lindsayís relief and delight, no one claimedthe little fellow, and so their first unexpected addition was added to the house. He was smart, funny and adorable. Lindsay named him Sootyfoot, Sooty for short.
One night they were sitting listening to music, and Lindsay commented, "You know, Iíve just been thinking. When youíre home, Sooty spends most of his time sleeping on a hearth rug, but when you leave in the morning, he gets up and is seldom more than two steps behind me all day, no matter what Iím doing."
"Sounds like heís guarding you," he laughed.
As was usual, when they went to bed that night, Sooty settled in right beside Lindsay. This night, however, they were startled awake by an unearthly yowl near their closed bedroom door. The light showed the little animal, back arched and every hair on end.
Connor got a gun and flashlight from the drawer, and started to open the door. Lindsay started to get up, but he shook his head adamantly, signaling for her to stay put. He and Sooty cautiously explored the house, but there was no sign of an intruder, and they went back upstairs.
Lindsay was kneeling in the middle of the bed, her head on her knees, when he reentered the room.
Before he could finish the sentence, she shot off the bed and streaked for the bathroom. He could hear her being sick, and he hurried in and fell to his knees beside her. He held her until the spasms passed, then brought her some water and gently washed her face.
"What happened, honey?"
Between heaves, gasps, and shivers, she was unable to talk, so he just held her, rubbing her back and becoming more frightened by the minute. Her heaves became uncontrollable sobs, and she just buried her face in his shoulder and held him as tightly as she could. He tightened his hold, too.
"Iím here, baby; Iím here," he soothed.
At last she was a little calmer. "It--all goes back to that day in Nevada, when we found each other again. One--minute youíre there, with me, and the next youíre unconscious. On that helicopter ride into the city, I convinced myself that somehow they would find you and take you away from me again, and I--I went completely crazy when we landed. I wouldnít let them near you, and I wouldnít leave you. I was convinced if I left I would never see you again.
"But they dragged me away, and locked me in a room, and I wanted to get back to you, but I couldn't, because they gave me something that almost paralyzed me. I was desperate to move, and couldn't," and she began crying again. "I felt so helpless!"
Connor made a strange noise in his throat. "I wish I had that doctor, and I use the term loosely, for just five minutes."
She looked up at him, eyes filled with pain. "Just now, when you--wouldnít let me go with you, and--shut the door behind you, all of a sudden I was back in that room, terrified and helpless-- and paralyzed." She wiped her face with her hand. "I was so--afraid youíd--never come back up those stairs! PleaseĖplease! Donít ever leave me like that again!"
"Itís all right, honey," he whispered, holding her close. "It's all right. Come on. Letís get you back into bed. Youíre freezing!"
They got to their feet and he picked her up in his arms. "Do you need a doctor? Is the baby all right?"
"Heís fine; weíre both fine. I just need you to hold me," and her voice began to break again.
"Not a problem."
They held each other the rest of the night, with the kitten nestled tight in the small of her back.
They awoke almost simultaneously the next morning, and made slow and gentle love.
"I am so sorry about last night, darling. Falling apart like that," she whispered. "I don't know what came over me. I'm not like that!"
He smiled at her. "Donít worry about it; you werenít to blame. Iíve been thinking about it, and I think what you had was a raging case of PTSD, plus maybe a wee stray hormone or two."
"Ah! A chauvinist," she laughed. "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder?"
"Um-hm. Think about it, honey. What you went through for those hours, plus worrying about me, wanting to protect me, and being unable to."
"But now you donít have to protect me. And at the risk of being called a chauvinist again"--and they both laughed--"itís my job to take care of you."
"No, Connor! Itís our job to take care of each other! Weíre partners in everything else, why not this?"
He was quiet for several minutes. "I donít know how to answer that. I guess itís something weíll have to work on." He kissed her with both passion and gentleness. "Come on. Letís go get some breakfast."
And so they went down the stairs, their arms around each otherís waists, the little cat leading the way.
"By the way, honey," Connor asked as they were finishing breakfast a few weeks later, "Did Mrs. Texler ever get back to you on the history of the house?"
"No, and I had forgotten about it. I think Iíll call her this morning."
He put his dishes on the counter, then picked up his things, as the cat got to his feet. "Guard her well, Sooty," he said, as he kissed Lindsay good-bye.
Lindsay finished cleaning up the breakfast things, then went into the great room to call Mrs. Texler. All she got was the answering machine. She left a message, then picked up the cat.
"Well, Sooty, what do we do now?" she asked, caressing his silky ears.
He looked up at her and peeped, then reached up to touch her cheek with his paw.
All of a sudden she had a thought. "The Internet, Sooty! Weíve forgotten the Internet!" She went up to their bedroom where the computer was, and on the bed was another rose!
When Connor got home that night, Lindsay was beside herself with excitement.
"I found it, Connor! I found it!"
"Whoa, slow down! Found what? The Lost Cord? Judge Crater in our basement?" he laughed.
"Oh, you are so funny, arenít you?" She waved the paper in her hand. "I found the story of the house! Oh, and itís so sad!"
"You did? Where?"
"On the Internet."
"Let me see it!"
He settled himself in one of the comfortable chairs, with Lindsay on the love seat, and read:
Slowly Connor laid the paper aside, and just as slowly raised his eyes to Lindsayís. "Never did I think it was something like that. It is sad."
"I think he feels every young woman in this house is his Rose."
"Are you ready for dinner?" she asked softly.
He shook his head. "Can dinner keep?"
He held out his hand and she stood up. "All of a sudden, I have this great need to be with you."
She smiled as they started up the stairs. "There was another rose today."
It was much later that he said, "Sometimes I think of the odds of us finding each other again. We could very easily have--"
She rolled over to face him and laid her fingers on his lips. "We were meant to be. I feel that so strongly."
"I do, too. And I canít imagine what it would be like without you. It makes my blood run cold!"
"Been there, done that. Connor, its so empty you can hear your breath echo."
"Itís cold, itís dark, and all you feel is emptiness."
They held each other extra tight, and were beginning to drift off to sleep, when "Wham!" the baby kicked Connor hard in the stomach, knocking the wind out of him and very nearly throwing him out of bed.
It took Lindsay a few seconds to figure out what had happened, and when she did she rolled over on her side, helpless with laughter. "Y-you should be on this side of it about a dozen times a day." She gasped.
"Does he always kick like that?" His stomach was sore and he was still a little breathless.
"N-no. That was an extra special effort," and she went off on another gale of laughter.
They were both on their left sides now, and he put his hand on her abdomen, making small, circular motions.
"Go to sleep, baby. Your mother needs her rest," he whispered.
Lindsay smiled and laid her head back into his shoulder, and soon they were all asleep.
It was happening again. Sooty stood at the bedroom door, yowling and hissing. Connor jumped from bed and again prepared to go downstairs. He looked up at Lindsay, and after a momentís indecision, held out his hand. "All right, come. But stay behind me!"
She nodded and together they went downstairs.
This time the cat didnít hesitate at all, but headed straight for the kitchen. They could see a faint, lighter line around the back door.
All at once something erupted from the corner by the fireplace and headed for the door. Connor was quick, but Sooty was quicker. He caught the intruder with claws and fangs before he was kicked off and sent rolling. Connor and Lindsay chased the intruder outside, but lost him.
While Connor called the police, Lindsay checked the cat. "Is he all right?"
"Good. Then unless every house in this town has a Ninja cat, this time we should be able to catch him."
Lindsay held him up and looked in his face. "Maybe we should change your name to ĎNinja,í" she laughed. Then: "Good baby," she whispered, and kissed him.
True to Connorís prediction, they did catch a young juvenile who had broken in looking for valuables.
Summer came. And with it, Lindsayís time neared. It was one week until their anniversary, and Lindsay joked that she was going to hold out till then, but Mother Nature had her own ideas. Three days before, Lindsay went into hard labor at 2:00 in the morning.
This time it was Connor who poured his love into Lindsay, and at 12:25 that afternoon, their child was born, howling, healthy, and beautiful.
That night when Connor went home, on the bed was another rose.
"Thank you, Abra," he whispered.
"Love has no barriers"
Footnote for new readers Ė The birth of Connor and Lindsay's baby is detailed in a future story. Watch for it! - The author