Forging Forever

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Chapter 20

Cameron looked down at Annie. He had stayed with her all night. He told himself it was because he wanted to make sure her fever did not return. That was partially true. The main reason though was because he just liked being near her. He had spent the night thinking. He knew he was attracted to her from the moment he saw her. This was something much deeper he admitted to himself, reluctantly. His heart was still bruised after Chloe’s deception two years past.

Chloe had been his fiancée. He loved her deeply and was eager to wed her. Preparations for a grand wedding were made. It was the talk of the town. Two weeks before the wedding Cameron had walked in on her and his best friend, Justin, in a compromising position to say the least. It had been the worst day of his life. Try as he might, he could not bring himself to forgive her. He had called off the wedding and severed ties with the two of them two days later. He had kept quiet about the circumstances of their split, but rumor began to spread and eventually everyone knew about the betrayal. Chloe’s reputation had been destroyed and both she and Justin had been cast out of the upper-class social circles. The last he had heard, Justin was fighting for the Tories and Chloe had shut herself up in her family home in the country.

The sharp pain in his heart had lessened to a dull, but persistent ache. Annie had been nothing but honest with him. Other than the note from two days ago, she had answered every question he had asked of her. Besides, after reading the note and realizing its personal tone, he could understand her desire to keep it private. Whatever demons it spoke of she was not ready to share. Cameron could understand not wanting to share personal pain. He had kept his to himself for years. She would tell him about it if and when she was ready.

Still, her ease in gaining Major Andre’s trust and actively deceiving him were disconcerting to him. Major Andre was convinced that Annie had feelings for him. Cameron had decided not to question Annie about the details of their actions together. Truthfully he had no desire to know. Just the idea of him kissing her made his blood boil.

He found himself wondering if the way she acted around him was just another grand deception on her part. His instincts told him no. The day they had spent together yesterday had been magic. Annie had been comfortable around him. She had cuddled up next to him without prompting from him. Sitting with her, his arm around her back, and watching movies with her had felt as natural to him as breathing. Besides, there was no possible information she could learn from him. She already knew everything he did. He knew he would have to resolve his misgivings soon. He was already in too deep with her.

Annie stirred but did not open her eyes. It was just now dawn. He did not expect her to wake anytime soon. He moved a strand of her long brown hair from her forehead and studied her face. She looked young and innocent in her sleep. The dark circles under her eyes made her look vulnerable, but not weak. Even in its relaxed state, her body was muscular and strong. He could feel her well-toned thighs next to his own. It was uncommon for women of this era to be as strong as she was. But then again, Annie was not of this era.

He had to admire how easily she had adjusted to her new surroundings. He had no doubt that she missed some of her modern conveniences. Hell, he had spent less than a day in the 21st century and he missed showers and electricity. He could only imagine how she felt. More important than that, she had given up a lot of personal freedom on her journey back. It was no longer acceptable for her to just rush off on her own whenever she felt like it. Earning her own money was unheard of. At first she had been adamant that she could take care of herself. She had taken her grandmother’s jewelry case and intended to sell pieces when she needed funds. Cameron had unequivocally denied her actions. He understood how important family and their treasures were. He would not allow Annie to part with hers unless it became an absolute necessity. Besides, Cameron had more than enough money from the printing business he owned. He was more than happy to share his vast wealth with her. She accepted the help, but he could see the wounded look in her eyes when he gave her money. That look broke his heart.

Annie stirred once again. Her eyes opened a bit then closed again. She rolled over onto her stomach and continued her deep sleep. He had much to accomplish today. He had not gone into the office yesterday for obvious reasons. He had sent a note to his office manager, explaining that he was not feeling well and would be staying home. His office manager, a man named James Locke, was a hardworking, competent man. He had no problem trusting him with the day to day running of the office. Ever since he had hired James, Cameron spent little time actually working. Truthfully, he was only needed for a few hours each day to answer correspondence and sign documents that required his signature. However, he worked a full day mostly to maintain his cover, but also because he enjoyed his work. The printing business offered a perfect cover for him. The high profits and impeccable quality of his products made him valuable to the community. That, along with the fact that he was an only child, prevented the Tories from sending him off to war. He could help far more with the war effort here. The business also allowed him to place coded messages into his daily paper for other members of the ring to see.

He needed to go to the office today, if only for a few hours. If he left now he could be back around lunchtime. Annie would probably sleep late today. He would ask Mary to check in on her until he returned. Afterwards they could spend the rest of the day together. Annie had promised to share the world of Harry Potter with him today. He had no idea what that meant, but he looked forward to finding out. Gently he slid out of bed. He scribbled a quick note telling her that he had gone to work but would return soon then placed it on her pillow. He gave her a soft kiss on the cheek then left the room.

Annie awoke to an empty bed. Bright rays of sunlight filtered through the curtains. She rolled over and saw a note laying on the pillow next to her. She opened it and quickly read it. It was from Cameron. He had gone into the office but said he would be back around lunchtime at which point they could begin their Harry Potter marathon. Annie pulled her tablet out from beneath her pillow. The battery was at twenty percent. She would need to charge it before they could watch anymore movies. She climbed out of bed and plugged the tablet into her solar charger, placed them both on the windowsill then pulled the curtains closed to hide them.

The clock in her room read half past eleven. Annie had slept for over twelve hours. It had been a long time since she had done that. However, the extra sleep had helped her immensely. She felt infinitely better today. The thought of staying confined to her bed all day was not at all appealing to her, especially since it was sunny outside. Annie washed herself with a cloth and water from the basin. Then she pulled on the dark blue day dress she had worn yesterday for her brief meeting with John. His insistence that they meet still riled her. Why would she send him a note telling her that she was ill if she wasn’t? She pushed the thought out of her mind. She tried to tie her hair, but her injured arm would not cooperate. She carried the ribbon in her hand and left the room, locking it behind her.

She found Mary alone in the kitchen preparing lunch. “Mary, would you mind tying my hair? My arm will not cooperate with me.”

“What in Heaven’s name are you doing out of bed? You should be resting,” she scolded.

“Mary, I spent virtually all day yesterday in bed and half the day today. I needed to get up and out, if only for a bit.”

“Very well,” she replied then took the ribbon from Annie. She braided her hair down her back and tied it securely. “Now you go and sit down. Lunch will be ready soon.”

“Yes ma’am. I’ll be out in the garden if that’s all right?”

“That’s fine. Just make sure you don’t get overheated.”

“I won’t,” Annie replied then walked out to the garden. The flowers were in full bloom. Roses of all different colors surrounded her. Their sweet fragrance drifted towards her. Annie inhaled deeply, enjoying their scent. She sat down on a bench in the middle of the garden and leaned back, closing her eyes and reveling in the warmth of the sun. She sat like that for quite some time.

“I thought I would find you here.”

Annie opened her eyes to see Cameron’s smiling face looking down at her. She leapt off the bench and threw herself at him. “Cameron, you’re back! I’m so happy.”

Cameron caught her, careful to avoid her injured arm. “I could get used to greetings like that,” he chuckled. “You look better today. Did you get some good sleep?”

“Yes. I woke up less than an hour ago. I’m feeling much better. The thought of staying cooped up in bed all day just did not appeal to me. I wanted to enjoy the sunshine for just a bit,” she explained then lowered her voice to a whisper. “Besides, my tablet needs to charge before we can watch more movies on it.”

“Oh, I see.” He smiled widely, a dimple appeared at the corner of his mouth. “Have you eaten yet?”

“No. Lunch wasn’t ready when I went downstairs.”

“Well it is now. Would you like to eat out here?”

“That would be lovely.”

“Very well. Stay here, I’ll be back.” He turned and went back inside. He returned a few minutes later with a tray full of food which he set on a table in the center of the garden. Annie walked over and sat down then began to eat. They stayed outside for several hours, alternating between eating and talking about a wide topic of things. They talked about their pasts, their fond memories, things that made them laugh. The one thing they did not talk about was their more clandestine activities here in the city, partially because they did not want to be discovered, mostly because they just had no desire to. All in all it was a pleasant afternoon. They only went inside when the sun began to set. They ate a small dinner. By then Annie was exhausted. They went back up to her room and Annie fell into a deep sleep.

Catherine sat in the sitting room of Madison and Noah Carter’s spacious town home. She had been delivered to their home after telling her story to a long line of British officers. The Carter’s were kind and after hearing her heartbreaking tale of loss they offered to take her in for as long as she needed. The story came easily to her. She had told it so many times now that even she had begun to believe it.

Madison Carter was kind and very beautiful. She had smooth, flawless skin and expressive eyes. She appeared to be around Annie’s age. Catherine found herself wondering if they had met. She was tempted to ask but stopped herself. She could not reveal any knowledge of Annie yet, especially since she did not know Annie’s back-story.

“You know, you are the second person I have met this week that had to flee their home,” Madison declared in her sing-song voice.

“Oh really?”

“Yes. A young woman named Annie Johnson had to leave her home in Boston after her brother left to join the war.”

Catherine’s heart leapt. Her instincts had been correct. Annie was here. She hid her excitement for now. She needed more information. “That is terrible. Is she staying here as well?”

“No. She has a room at Mary and Amos Underhill’s boardinghouse not far from here. I would love to introduce you soon. Unfortunately she is ill as of now, so your meeting will have to wait.”

“That is a shame,” Catherine replied. She had no need to meet Annie. Now that she knew where she was staying she would easily be able to sneak out and deal with her, then return back home.

“Well, you must be hungry and tired. It has been a long day for you. I’ll get you some dinner then you can retire for the night. Tomorrow I will show you around and introduce you to some of my friends.”

Madison guided Catherine to the dining room and brought her a tray of food. They chatted amiably while Catherine ate. She managed to find out the address for the Underhill’s boardinghouse. She was familiar with the street. It was nearly ten o’clock by the time Madison showed Catherine to her room. The room was opulent and spacious. Madison gave her a nightgown then left her alone for the night. Catherine made sure to thank her for her kindness. She actually felt a little guilty about using her. Madison was incredibly kind and her positive attitude was contagious. Catherine pushed those thoughts from her mind. She had a task to complete. She sat down on the bed, intending to wait for the house to fall silent. Her body had other ideas. Once she sat down, exhaustion took over and she fell into a deep sleep. Her last coherent thought was that Annie could live for one more day.

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