Jim Frayne waited at the bus stop, checking his watch every five minutes. It was past midnight, the bus was twenty minutes late, and it was snowing.

Twenty minutes gone from the thirty-four hours I have to spend with Trixie! Is snow delaying the bus? Has there been an accident?. Running every scenario he could think of through his mind, Jim thought he was going to go insane if the bus didn’t arrive soon. Despite the chilling wind and wet snow, he insisted on waiting outside to greet his visitor. Just as he thought to pull his hood over his already damp hair, he saw a lone bus pull into the station. He waited anxiously as several people debarked, barely noticing the tired mother with three children, the elderly woman with a huge knitting bag, or the skinny kid who didn’t look old enough to be travelling on his own. The only passenger he had eyes for was a petite blond girl with wild curls and sparkling blue eyes.

Just as he began to wonder if she had missed the bus, he saw Trixie climb down the steps, a strained expression on her beautiful face. Pushing his way through the crowd, he surprised them both by scooping her up in his arms and enveloping her in a tight hug.

Trixie laughed in delight and put her arms around his neck. “It’s good to see you, too! I was beginning to think that I’d never get here.”

Jim set her down with a broad grin. “You’re a sight for sore eyes, Trixie. Now, let’s go get your bags and get out of here.”

Still grinning, Jim took her by the hand and marvelled at the intensity of their greeting. We haven't seen each other in nearly two months; we're not officially dating; yet ... we're acting like lovers. Whoa! Better not over-analyze a good thing!

He released her hand only to put a protective arm around her shoulders. At Trixie's questioning look, he shrugged. “I can’t help it. We’re at a bus station in the middle of the night. I’m holding on to you.”

Trixie smiled and shook her head. “It really is good to see you, Jim.”

They hurried to retrieve her small bag and headed to Jim’s vehicle. Jim settled her bag in the trunk and opened the door for his guest. Unused to the chivalry, but enjoying it, Trixie climbed into the passenger seat. “Nice ride, Jim! What is it?”

Jim blushed and named a model that Trixie knew to be breathtakingly expensive. “Dad insisted. He was so proud of me for finishing my degree in three years instead of four, that he wouldn’t take no for an answer. I’m almost embarrassed to drive it, but...”

“But, nothing, Jim.” Trixie smiled and patted his leg. “You deserve it. I don’t blame Mr. Wheeler one bit for wanting to get you something special. I only wish I could do something special for you, too.”

Jim turned to her and stared. “Are you kidding? You coming to visit me is the best present I could imagine. I’ve been looking forward to this ever since you said your parents were actually considering letting you come.” He paused and stared at her with a question in his eye.

“How did you get them to agree to you travelling four hundred miles across the country on the bus by yourself, to stay with…” Jim’s voice trailed off as he didn’t really know how to describe himself. I'm not her boyfriend, but I'm certainly not just a friend, either. Not after the kisses we've shared during my last few visits home!

Trixie answered, apparently oblivious to Jim's inner turmoil. “I really don’t know. At first they wouldn’t even consider it, but then they said that I had been acting more responsibly lately, that I would be graduating myself in a few months, and that I would be an adult soon. I guess they thought it was time for me to start making my own decisions.” She grinned cheekily. “It took me about two seconds to get on the Internet and book my bus ticket after they told me I could come.” She cut off the flow of words, as if worried that she sounded too eager.

Jim reassured her by smiling and kissing her on the cheek. “I really don’t care why you got to come, I’m just glad that you’re here. Now, where to?”

Trixie looked surprised. “It’s pretty late, isn’t it? Shouldn’t we be going back to the dorm?”

Tugging a blonde curl, Jim grinned at her. “The night’s still young. We can go back if you like, I could drive you past some of my favourite places, or we could go out for something to eat. We can do whatever you like, Trix.”

It was Trixie's turn to blush. “Well, I am a little hungry. Moms packed me a sandwich and stuff, but I ate it about five hours ago.” She shrugged her shoulders. “Travelling always makes me hungry.”

Jim put the car in gear and pulled out of the parking lot. “I know just the place.”

Trixie groaned. “Not the greasy spoon, Jim, please. I haven't forgotten the last time I ate greasy food late at night.”

Jim smiled and took her hand. “No, Trix. This is a special place. I’ve been wanting to bring you here for a while.”

“Why didn’t we go when some of us came down last semester?” Trixie asked. “You know how Honey and Diana love to try new restaurants.”

Jim smiled a secret smile, let go of Trixie’s hand to change gears, and reclaimed it. “Because I didn’t want to take anyone except you.”

Trixie blushed again at his words and fell silent. Looking out the window, she devoured the sights of the city. “It’s beautiful, Jim!” she exclaimed. “I love driving through a city at night. The lights, the buildings, everything looks different. Somehow the dirt and grime disappear, and you see the city as it should be.”

Jim looked at her in amazement, but readily agreed. “I love it, too. I don’t spend a lot of time in the city, but it’s often at night, and I always enjoy it.”

They rode in companionable silence the rest of the drive to the restaurant, and soon pulled into a well-lit and fairly busy establishment. “Look familiar?” Jim asked.

Trixie’s eyes widened as she viewed the entrance. “Why, it reminds me of England! It looks just like that row of houses where Mart said that Sherlock Holmes lived.”

Jim pointed to the name painted on the door.

“221B Baker Street? You’ve got to be kidding! That’s too funny!” Trixie laughed and allowed Jim to open the door for her.

The interior of the restaurant retained the style of an English pub. Rich dark wood complemented well-worn but still attractive leather. After they were seated in a booth with a view to the street, Trixie continued to drink in her surroundings, noting with interest the various plaques and framed posters on the walls.

As they studied the menu, Jim elaborated on his choice of restaurant. “When I saw this place for the first time, all I could think was that I would love to bring you here, so you could be in the company of another great sleuth, and to remind you of the time we spent in England.” They both smiled in fond remembrance. “The funny thing is, you're the only person I wanted to bring here. I didn't even think of Honey or Mart until much later.” As she blushed in confusion, he continued. “You're so much more than a detective, Trixie. At least, to me you are.”

Jim was horrified to see that Trixie was biting her lip as he finished speaking. He was almost sure he could see tears sparkling in her eyes as she stood up and made an excuse to use the restroom. What did I do wrong? Jim's apprehension grew as he waited for her to come back.

She returned a few minutes later with traces of tears in her eyes and a bright smile that looked forced to Jim. Taking her hand from across the table and asked, “Trixie, honey, what’s wrong? I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to upset you.”

Trixie was quick to counter, “No, no. It was nothing. And I think the restaurant is perfectly perfect.” She added shyly, “I’m glad it’s just you and me here.”

Somewhat relieved, Jim smiled. “Me, too, Trixie, me too. Can you imagine how Mart would tease us if he were here?”

They were soon talking and laughing their way through a delicious meal. As the waiter accepted Jim’s credit card, he glanced at his watch and realized that it was much later than he had thought. “I guess it’s time to head back. I promised your dad that I wouldn’t keep you out till all hours.”

Trixie raised her eyebrows, and Jim silently groaned, cursing his inability to keep anything from her. Apparently, she didn’t know that he had received a phone call from her parents shortly after she had bought her ticket.

He hastened to reassure her, “They weren’t being too overprotective, Trixie. They were right to make sure that I would take good care of you and treat you properly. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for them to let you make this trip by yourself.”

Trixie nodded reluctantly, and they left the restaurant. As he hurried to open her car door, Jim was rewarded with a brilliant smile, and was forced to remind himself of his conversation with Peter Belden. I will be a perfect gentleman, Jim had promised both himself and Mr. Belden. It's going to be a lot harder than I ever imagined! He was actually relieved when Trixie leaned back and closed her eyes almost as soon as he started driving.

Arriving back at the university, Jim found that Trixie was sound asleep. Chuckling to himself, he couldn’t resist waking her with a soft kiss. When her big blue eyes widened in surprise, he smiled and murmured, “Time to wake up, sleepy head. We’re here.”

A groggy Trixie allowed Jim to retrieve her luggage from the trunk and help her from the car. After what seemed like an interminably long walk, he led her to a long, low building lined with doors that opened to the outside. “I’m in one of the original dorms this semester,” he explained. “This building was constructed in 1825, and has been in continuous use ever since. In fact,” he sighed, “I’m pretty sure there have been no renovations since it was built.”

He stopped at a door, looked for something on the ground, and frowned. “Chad was supposed to leave a key for you. He’s going home for the weekend, and said that you could use his room.” Annoyed, he knocked on the door, tentatively at first, and then with increased vigour. In response to Trixie's inquisitive look, he explained, “He may have told someone else they could stay here this weekend. I just want to make sure everything’s okay.”

The door opened to reveal a familiar young man with messy hair, pulling on a pair of pyjama pants. “What’s the deal, Frayne? I’ve got company, if you know what I mean.” Chad saw Trixie for the first time and started. Smacking himself on the forehead, he turned to Jim. “Sorry, man. I totally forgot your girlfriend was coming to visit. I decided to stay in town this weekend. Plans change, if you know what I mean.” Chad waggled his eyebrows suggestively and gestured to the room behind him. “I gotta go, man. Sorry!” He nodded towards Trixie with a deceptively innocent expression. “Maybe she won’t mind staying in your room?”

Jim stared at Chad in consternation. Trying to keep his temper in check, he replied, “Thanks, Chad. Good to know I can count on you.”

His anger was assuaged when Trixie put her hand on his arm. “It’s okay, Jim. We’ll figure something out. Let’s go back to your room. I’m too tired to stand out here arguing.”

Jim felt his anger being replaced with trepidation. Trixie in his dorm room at two in the morning? Her parents are not going to like this. He sighed and turned to lead the way to his room. Sending one last parting glare over his shoulder at Chad, he was sure he could see a smirk on his friend's face. If I didn’t know that Chad was perfectly capable of forgetting his promises, I would suspect that he had set the whole thing up. Is there even anyone in his room? Jim decided to let it go, and picked up Trixie’s suitcase.

Opening his door, he was relieved to find that he had picked up after himself that day. While normally neat, he had been so distracted at the thought of Trixie visiting that he couldn’t remember cleaning his room.

Trixie entered the room and surveyed it with intelligent, if exhausted, eyes. Discovering the fireplace, her eyes widened. “They trust college students with fireplaces?”

Jim burst into laughter. “It doesn’t seem like a good idea, does it? But everyone who actually gets to live on the Lawn takes really good care of their room. Even Chad.” He explained, “It’s a real honour to stay in this building, and I’m lucky to be able to do it. These rooms are normally reserved for fourth-year students, but since I won’t be here next year, they made an exception.”

Trixie nodded and turned to the rest of the room. It was small, containing only a bed and desk. Not seeing another door, she asked, “Do you share a bathroom?”

Jim sighed. “You could say that. They’re located at the end of the building, but you have to go outside to get to them. Not exactly convenient in winter.”

Her interest in Jim’s room was quickly waning in response to her increasing exhaustion, and Trixie sat down on the only chair. “Jim, I know this sounds terrible, but forget you’re honourable for once. I really want to go to sleep. Could I please just stay in your room tonight?”

Jim saw the plea in Trixie’s eyes, and knew that he was powerless to refuse her request. Sighing again, he nodded. “Okay. I’ll sleep on the floor. I have an extra pillow and blanket somewhere.”

As he rummaging through the closet, Jim tried to calm his heartbeat and not think about Trixie in his bed. How on earth am I going to explain this to her parents? He found the items he was looking for and laid them out. He glanced at Trixie, and found that she was holding her pyjamas and looking uncomfortable. I guess she wants to change, but doesn't want to go all the way to the restrooms in the dark.

Jim flushed and looked away, saying, “You go ahead and change, Trix. I’ll just sit at my desk. With my hands over my eyes.” He felt like a complete idiot, but was rewarded by Trixie's grateful smile. Mentally listing the elements of the periodic table helped somewhat, and he was feeling much more controlled by the time Trixie indicated that she had finished changing.

Turning back the covers on his bed, Jim thanked his lucky stars that he had put clean sheets on it that morning. He eyed the comforter warily. It's been a while since I washed it. Does it stink? Will she going to spend the whole night unable to sleep because she can't breathe? Jim shook his head. Too late for those worries.

Trixie sighed in appreciation and sat on the bed. She was surprised that Jim removed only the button down shirt over his tee shirt before he settled down on the floor. “Aren’t you going to be uncomfortable sleeping in jeans?” she asked.

Once more, Jim found his face turning red, and tried to think of a polite way to tell her that he didn’t own pyjamas. Coming up blank, he responded, “I’ll be fine.”

Trixie shrugged her shoulders and slipped off the cardigan of her pyjama sweater set, placing it beside the bed. She yawned and snuggled under the covers. “Goodnight, Jim.”

Jim was still recovering from the sight of Trixie in the spaghetti strap tank top she wore under the sweater, and it took him a moment to collect himself and turn off the light. After several minutes of tossing and turning, he concluded that comfort was not going to be an option, and gave up. Turning over one last time, he was interrupted by Trixie.

“Give it up, Jim. You’re not going to get any sleep if you stay on the floor tonight.” Even in the dark, Jim could hear the blush in her voice as she continued. “We can share the bed.”

He couldn't answer.

“If you like, you can sleep on top of the covers.” Jim could hear the exasperation in her voice. “Just get in the bed, Jim. I won’t be able to sleep if I know you’re uncomfortable.”

Against his better judgement, Jim slowly stood up. “Are you sure?” he asked, not trusting himself to make any wise decisions at this point.

“I wouldn’t have suggested it if I weren’t sure.”

Jim started to climb into bed, but stopped and groaned. “I don’t know, Trixie. What are you going to tell your parents?”

Trixie’s answer was so low that he wasn’t sure she had spoken at all. “I don’t plan on telling them.” After a pause, she added, “I’m almost an adult, Jim, and I’m going to be on my own soon. I love my parents with all my heart, but they don’t need to know every detail of my life. I've thought it through and made a decision that I'm comfortable with.” Even when quiet, her voice held the strength of her convictions. With courage heightened by the dark, she added, “And since we don’t plan on having sex, it’s really not a big deal either way. Please get in bed so we can go to sleep.”

Her last sentence was more of a command than an invitation, and this time Jim didn’t hesitate to obey. While unconvinced that he would actually be comfortable or likely to sleep, he had used up his only argument.

Lying on his back and staring up at the ceiling, Jim tried to remain motionless while Trixie re-arranged her position. With her back against the length of his body, he hoped she had no idea the effect she was having on him. Within moments, her quiet breathing told him she was fast asleep. Jim sighed and found that, while tired, he was wide awake. Closing his eyes and trying to relax, he found that he could only think about Trixie, and how much he wanted to be with her.

Unbidden, the memory of a conversation with his mother came rushing back to him, gently pushing out thoughts of Trixie.

He was doing homework in his mother’s bedroom, so he could spend time with her before he went to bed. Lights out was early in the Jones household, as Katie was easily tired, and Jim and Jonesy had to be up early to tend to the animals. Jim sighed and looked up from his math problems. It was getting harder and harder to care about his assignments while he watched his mother weaken. Staring at the drab wallpaper, he wished that she had a more soothing place to recuperate. He knew if he were stuck in that room all day, he would go insane. As he turned his focus back to his homework, his mother cleared her throat.

“Jim,” she began, “there’s something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about.” She took a deep breath. “I know your father talked to you about sex when you were younger.”

“Mom!” Jim interrupted, his face flaming.

Katie smiled. “I know, Jim. I’m the last person you want to have this conversation with...” her smile disappeared, “But…”

Jim jumped up from his seat and hugged her. He whispered, “I’m sorry, Mom.”

She returned his hug and patted a spot on the bed next to her. “I’m sorry, too, Jim. More than you know. Come sit with me.”

Jim joined her and put his head on her shoulder. Katie put her arm around him and started again.

“Your father explained the mechanics of sex. I want to tell you about the emotional side.” After another pause, she continued.

“Sex can be a beautiful expression of love. When two people love each other with all their hearts, and are committed to making the other person happy, it's a wonderful way of communicating that love.” She sighed and turned to look Jim in the eye. “I want you to wait for the right person. Your father and I both believed that marriage was the only appropriate relationship for sex. I know that views are changing, and I won’t ask you to follow the same course that we did. What I am asking, though, is that you wait until you know that you want to be with that person for the rest of your life.” At Jim’s nod, she continued. “There’s more. Even if you’ve found that person, I want you to promise me that you’ll wait until you’re able to care for any children you may create.”

Jim nodded again. “It all makes sense, Mom. They teach us in school that the only way to be sure of not getting pregnant is to not have sex. Why would people want to have sex before they’re old enough to take care of kids?”

Katie smiled. “You’ll understand when you get a little older. Now, why don’t you finish up those math problems? It's almost time to get ready for bed.”

Jim opened his eyes and looked at the young woman next to him. He was sure that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her, but she was only seventeen. Sex would have to wait. Taking a deep breath, he turned over, and was soon asleep.

Both of them slept late the next morning. Jim smiled as he opened his eyes. Life doesn't get much better than waking up beside Trixie. After getting out of bed as quietly as he could, he gathered his toiletries and a change of clothes. He left a note on his desk and hurried to the restrooms. Upon his return, he saw Trixie sitting on the bed and staring into space with a pensive expression. She jumped when he closed the door behind him and quickly put a smile on her face.

Jim frowned. She's hiding something. If I didn’t know better, I would think that she's working on a mystery. Or regretting sharing a bed last night. Or worrying about a boy.

He froze in mid-thought. I know that she's dated a few boys back home. Have they been more serious than I thought? Does she feel as if she's betrayed one of them? No. If she had feelings for someone else, she wouldn’t have acted completely natural with me last night. She isn't good at deception. Of course, that left him worrying about whether she was working on a mystery, or regretting their shared accommodations. I give up. She'll tell me what's bothering her when she's good and ready.

After placing his dirty clothes in his laundry bag, Jim faced Trixie and put a smile on his own face. Trixie rolled her eyes. “It’s okay, Jim. I know I must look terrible. You don’t have to pretend.”

Marvelling at both her insecurity and obvious lack of awareness of her beauty, Jim merely greeted her with a kiss on the forehead. “You look great to me, Shamus,” he said, tugging a wayward curl. Straightening up, he continued. “Now, you need to get busy. It’s a little late for breakfast, but we can have an early lunch on the Corner. And,” he wiggled his eyebrows dramatically, “you’d better dress warmly.”

Trixie smiled. “A mystery? You’re on, Jim.” She quickly donned shoes and a jacket and headed for the restrooms. A half hour later they were walking hand in hand to the row of red-bricked buildings across from the Rotunda.

The previous night's snow had blanketed the trees, ground, and buildings alike, creating a winter wonderland. The ice under the snow, however, soon reminded them that the beauty was not without a price. Trixie and Jim watched in horror as several cars slid through stop signs and fishtailed in their attempts to regain control.

“What on earth?” Trixie wondered aloud. “Is it always like this when it snows?”

Jim nodded soberly. “Virginia may be further south than New York, but we still get a lot of snow here. You know what the first snowfall of the season is like at home. Even in New York, lots of people drive as if they’ve never seen snow before. And it’s a lot wetter here than it is at home. Driving conditions deteriorate rapidly. It’s a good thing it’s already warming up. Most of this snow should be gone in a few days.”

Trixie was astonished. “Wow! That’s fast.” She sighed dramatically. “We’ll be slogging our way through snow for the next few months, probably.”

Jim chuckled. “What, are you stuck with the snow shovelling now that Mart’s gone?”

Shaking her head, Trixie answered, “No, Bobby takes care of most of it. He’s growing up fast! With both Brian and Mart at college, Bobby has picked up a lot of the outdoor chores. Whoever thought he would turn out to be responsible?”

Jim grinned. “Oh, I don’t know. If you ask me, it’s probably due to genetics and environment. He has a lot of good examples to follow.”

Trixie nodded. “I think all the time he spends with Dan helps, too.”

Surprised, Jim turned to her. “Really? I didn’t know that.”

Trixie shrugged. “Dan takes Bobby with him sometimes when he patrols the game preserve. Bobby helps him fill the feeding stations, and other little things.” She shrugged again. “Bobby always looks forward to it, and Dan said he’s been a big help. Plus, it gets another horse exercised.”

Jim nodded. Why do I feel left out? It's great that Bobby has a surrogate big brother to spend time with, isn't it? Shaking off what he knew to be a useless and dead-end attitude, he led Trixie to a Mediterranean restaurant on the Corner.

“In the mood for falafel?” he asked.

Trixie's curls bounced as she nodded her head. “That’s one of the few meals that I’d rather eat from a restaurant than have Moms make at home. Let’s go!”

They enjoyed savory falafels with chickpeas, lamb, and other unidentifiable ingredients. Probably better off not knowing, Jim thought.

After purchasing iced tea and water for the road, they headed out in Jim's car. Trixie drank in the sight of the beautiful, rolling Virginia countryside as they drove. Jim smiled as he watched the wheels turning in her mind.

“Well, have you figured out where we’re going, yet?” Jim asked in a teasing tone.

Trixie teased back. “Maybe I have, maybe I haven’t. We’ll have to wait and see, now won’t we?”

Jim smiled in earnest. “Have it your way. Of course, you can’t expect me to believe you if you say you were right, only when we arrive.”

Trixie laughed. “I know, I know. The truth is, I have no idea where we’re going. All I know is that you said to dress warm. Maybe a park?” She hazarded a guess and looked expectantly at Jim.

He returned her earlier teasing. “I don’t know. We’ll have to see, now won’t we?”

Trixie groaned. “Can you at least tell me if it’s much further? I’m dying of curiosity here.”

Jim glanced at a road sign and said, “Not far at all. In fact…” A couple hundred feet further down the road, he turned down a long driveway lined with beautiful trees. “Here we are.”

Trixie laughed as she read a prominent sign. “I should have known!” she exclaimed. “You did take us to Monticello before, but we didn't have time for Montepelier.”

Jim laughed. “As I recall, it wasn't time we were running short on. I believe there was a decided lack of interest.”

“Not from me,” Trixie protested. “Monticello was wonderful! Who wouldn't want to see Thomas Jefferson's home?”

“Well, I hope you enjoy James Madison's home just as well. They were good friends, you know.”

Trixie nodded. “Didn't they write the Federalist papers together?”

Jim smiled. “Not quite. I think Madison wrote the papers with two other men. But both Jefferson and Madison had strong beliefs, and a shared passion for making the United States the wonderful country it is today.”

Trixie's eyes grew wider as they neared the beautiful brick mansion. “What a place! You could fit about twenty Crabapple Farms in Montepelier!”

“Maybe even a few Manor Houses,” Jim joked. “In reality, it was much smaller in Madison's day. The DuPont family really expanded during their ownership. There's currently a project underway to restore Montepelier to its' original state. Or, at least, how it was in Madison's time. Madison himself added on to the original house as well.” He grinned. “He and his wife were living there with his parents. I imagine he and Dolley wanted some privacy.”

“That I can understand,” Trixie chuckled.

“Shall we go in? Jim asked. At Trixie's nod, he took her hand and escorted her to the entrance. After enjoying the guided tour, the two were soon back in Jim's car.

“Well, what next, O Tour Guide Extraordinaire?” Trixie teased.

Jim smiled even as he flushed. “It comes with the territory. Here in Virginia, we take our history very seriously. And we do have a lot to be proud of. I have to admit, I've learned a lot by coming out here for school. It was a good decision.”

Engrossed in his own thoughts, Jim failed to notice the smile slide off Trixie's face. “How would you feel about a hike?” he questioned. “There’s a hiking path around here that’s supposed to be good,” he explained. “I thought it might be nice to enjoy the outdoors a little.” His anxious look belied his words. It had seemed like a good idea when he was planning their weekend, but in view of the recent snow, he was no longer as confident.

His worry quickly dissipated when she replied, “It’s a wonderful idea, Jim. The only Virginia countryside I’ve seen has been from a moving vehicle, and most of that was in the dark. Let’s get going!”

After driving a short distance, Jim found the path for which he was looking. Both were quiet as they enjoyed the beautiful landscape covered in pure white snow. Jim pointed out several birds, and together they examined various animal prints in the snow. He felt at peace. It's been a while since I've had time to enjoy an afternoon outdoors. And the fact that Trixie is with me - well, that just makes it even more perfect. And because he was so happy, he couldn't help adding, not just perfect, but perfectly perfect. Spotting another sign, he remarked, “We’re almost to the rest stop at the far end. Think you can make it?” He teased Trixie, who had been bouncing with energy the entire walk.

Trixie pretended to ponder the question. “I don’t know, old man. Care to race?”

Before Jim could reply, Trixie sprinted past him. Her hair flowing behind her, she cackled madly as she raced up the path. Chuckling to himself, Jim took off after her, and was surprised when he found he had to work to catch her. They were almost to the rest area when Jim caught her by the waist. Undaunted, Trixie tried to keep moving forward, but was slowly dragged down as Jim held on tightly and planted his feet. Trixie’s mirthful squeals were replaced with desperate giggles as she collapsed on the snowy path and Jim enforced his victory by tickling her. Gasping for air, she tried unsuccessfully to swat Jim’s hands away, but he managed to grasp both her hands and pin them above her head.

“Oh, that’s it, Shamus. You’re mine now.” Jim growled. Trixie’s giggles ceased, as Jim had to stop tickling her in order to hold her arms.

“Oh, I am, am I?” Trixie breathed.

Jim looked down at her angelic face and wild, untamed curls. His body was half-covering hers, and he could feel every inch of her even through their winter jackets. He found himself unwilling to get up. Still panting from exertion, Trixie’s mouth was slightly open. Throwing caution to the wind, he lowered his face to hers and kissed her gently.

And then not so gently.

And then he kissed her with steadily increasing passion until they were both panting for breath.

The combination of the clean, fresh, outdoors, and Trixie’s willing responses to his kisses had Jim’s senses reeling. His mind suddenly engaged again as he realized that he was lying on top of Trixie on a snow bank.

Pulling away from her with reluctance, he begged her forgiveness. “Trixie, I am so sorry. I can’t believe I did that. You must be soaked. We’d better head back so you can get into some dry clothes.”

Trixie smiled and reached out a hand so that Jim could pull her up. “In a minute. We didn’t come all this way not to see the end of the trail.”

And so they walked the few feet into the clearing and sat down on the bench. Unspoiled nature surrounded them as far as they could see or hear. Jim silently put an arm around Trixie’s shoulders, and she laid her head on his chest. After a few moments of contemplative companionship, Trixie broke the silence.

“There’s something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about, Jim.”

Jim felt his insides clench. Stay calm, Frayne! A myriad of possibilities ran through his mind. Is she seeing someone else? Does she want to stay free to see other people? Maybe she's not interested in me?

Unaware of Jim’s turmoil, Trixie continued. “I’ve been offered a scholarship.”

Jim almost laughed aloud with relief. “That’s wonderful, Trixie! Where will you be going to school?”

Trixie grinned and looked at him sheepishly. “Well, that’s the thing. I’ll actually be going to school right here.”

Jim’s eyes widened in surprise. “I didn’t know you applied to UVA. That’s great! I just wish I were going to be here with you.”

“I know, Jim. It would have been great.” Trixie’s voice trailed off, and Jim had the distinct impression that, yet again, she hadn’t told him everything. Deciding that he would have to wait until she was ready to share more, Jim pulled her into his arms. “I’m so proud of you! You must be getting incredible grades to be offered a scholarship.”

Trixie blushed and stood up, indicating that the conversation was at an end. “Well, shall we head back? I probably should get out of these wet clothes.”

Jim joined her and they started back down the path in silence, as he digested Trixie's news. He was holding her hand securely when they came across a part of the trail that was more slippery than the rest. The combination of ice under snow and above freezing temperatures had created a dangerous environment that neither of them had anticipated. In one fell swoop, Jim felt Trixie’s hand wrench out of his and saw her crash to the ground. The next second he felt his own feet slip and lost the battle with equilibrium. Landing in a pile beside Trixie, he shook his head and chuckled.

“Didn’t we just do this routine?” he asked. Trixie, however, didn’t reply as she carefully tried to pick herself up.

“You’re hurt!” Jim exclaimed, regretting his cavalier teasing. Trixie’s drawn and pinched face tore at him, and he quickly moved to assist her. “Where does it hurt, Shamus?”

She leaned on him heavily and tried to laugh, but only succeeded in sounding like she was choking. “It’s my ankle. I landed on it kind of funny…”

Before Trixie finished speaking, Jim swept her up in his arms and headed down the path with a brisk but cautious stride. Feeling intense guilt for suggesting a hike in fresh snow, he was determined to get help immediately.

“Jim,“ Trixie gasped, as the surprise of being swept off her feet wore off, “It’s really not that bad. I’m pretty sure I can walk. It hurt like crazy, but I’m sure it’s not broken. It’s probably not even sprained.”

Jim looked down at Trixie and tried to pretend he wasn't worried. Deliberately flippant, he pleaded, “Oh, come on. Let me have my moment of coming to your rescue.”

Just as he hoped, Trixie laughed. “Well, if you put it that way, its too bad Jupiter isn’t here. You could carry me off on your trusty steed.”

Relaxing slightly, Jim chuckled. “I’m afraid you’ll have to settle for my car, Shamus.”

Trixie sighed and pretended to be disappointed. “If that's the best you can do...”

Jim glanced down at her and noticed that although she was acting as if she felt better, pain still etched her face. Lengthening his stride, he soon reached his vehicle, and after placing Trixie in her seat, he examined her ankle. Removing her boot, he was relieved to see no obvious signs of bleeding, bruising, or swelling.

“See?” Trixie's tone was triumphant. “I told you it wasn’t serious.”

Jim rolled his eyes. “Your clothes are soaking wet and your face couldn’t be whiter if you pulled a sheet over it. I think we’ve had enough adventure for one day. How about I take you back, and I ask a friend of mine to look you over? Just to make sure you’re okay.”

Trixie sighed. “That really isn’t necessary, Jim. All I need is to get into some dry clothes.”

Jim shrugged. “It’s either see my friend, or spend the rest of the day waiting in emergency. What’ll it be?”

Groaning, Trixie swung both her legs into the vehicle and struggled with her seatbelt. “Lay on, Mac Duff.”

Secretly surprised at her capitulation, Jim quickly hopped into the driver’s seat and headed back.

Two hours later, Trixie was lying on Jim’s bed with her foot propped up on a pillow, exhausted after an agonizingly long trek from the student parking to the dorms. Even with Jim supporting most of her weight, it hadn't been an easy journey to his pre-med friend's dorm room. Jim sat at his desk, despondently rearranging his textbooks. Finally meeting Trixie’s curious gaze, he said, “I’m sorry, Trixie. You came here for a good time, and all I’ve done is dump you in snow banks. I’m sorry I ruined our weekend.”

Trixie laughed. “Are you kidding? I’m having a great time!” At Jim’s incredulous look, she continued in a shy voice. “Any time I spend with you is wonderful, Jim. I’d have to do a lot more than turn my ankle to ruin the weekend. For me, at least,” she added, obviously insecure about expressing her feelings.

Feeling a surge of relief that she didn’t blame him for the accident, Jim crossed the room to the bed and put his arms around her. Gently kissing her forehead, he said, “Well, I still feel bad. What can I do to make it up to you?”

A slow smile spread across Trixie’s face. “Well, there is one thing you could do.”

“Anything you want, Shamus. You name it.”

“I did get pretty cold and wet today. How about you rustle up a fire for us?”

Jim looked from Trixie to the fireplace. “That I can manage. A few of us went in together and bought some wood, just in case we wanted to build a fire sometime this winter. I haven’t used any yet, so I’ll just go and collect my share.”

Returning with the firewood, he found Trixie resting quietly with her eyes closed. He smiled at the beautiful picture she made. Her blonde curls were slightly damp and hopelessly tangled. She was wearing her pyjamas, as she wanted to save her only other clean clothes for the bus ride home. The sweater set and matching pants were of a soft, light blue material that managed to both fall loosely from her and cling to her at the same time. Best of all, her face was no longer etched with pain. Smiling to himself and thinking that he was the luckiest man in the world, Jim set down the wood and busied himself making sure that the fireplace was clean and in good repair. Once satisfied that the kindling had caught fire, he turned back to find Trixie watching him. Perplexed by the intense look in her eyes, he hastened to her side.

“What is it, Trixie? Is your ankle hurting again?”

Trixie grinned and shook off her serious demeanour. “Not at all, Jim. Thanks for starting the fire.” She rubbed her arms and pretended to chatter her teeth. “Now maybe I won’t die of hypothermia or exposure during the night.”

Jim laughed. “No worries, Trix. But, you know, I can think of an even better way to keep warm in a drafty old dorm room.”

At Trixie’s raised eyebrows, Jim realized what he had said. With his face the colour of his hair, he sputtered, “Pizza. I was thinking of pizza. And possibly hot chocolate.”

Trixie laughed and nodded. “Of course you were.”

Jim gave in and laughed with her. “Well, the offer of pizza still stands. It wasn’t quite what I had in mind for supper tonight, but someone had to go and twist their ankle, so…”

Trixie rolled her eyes. “Pizza sounds heavenly. Lunch feels like it was about eight hours ago.” She looked at her watch in false fascination. “Oh, wait. It was eight hours ago. Some host you are, Jim Frayne!”

Jim shook his head and reached for the phone. “Pepperoni and mushrooms? Extra cheese?”

Trixie licked her lips in anticipation. “It all sounds good.”

Jim placed the order and sat down on the edge of the bed.

“Just for curiosity's sake, what were your plans for the evening?” Trixie asked.

Jim smiled and moved to sit closer to her. Placing an arm around her shoulders, he replied, “Well, I did make reservations to take you to the Boar’s Head Inn.” At Trixie’s blank expression, he added, “It’s a really nice restaurant not far from here. It’s where Mother and Dad take me whenever they come to visit. I thought it might be fun to go there with you.”

She nodded slowly. “That does sound like fun. Of course,” she looked down at her pyjamas self-consciously, “I'm not exactly dressed for a nice restaurant.”

Jim allowed himself to study her clothes more carefully, noting with interest the way her body had developed, even since the last time he had seen her. The sweater clung to her upper body, enhancing her growing curves. As Jim noticed the snug fit of her pants, he felt the room grow warmer, and he pulled at the collar of his shirt.

He snapped to attention as Trixie continued, “You don’t have to go out and pick up the pizza, do you? The roads were still pretty treacherous on the way home, and it’s so nice and cozy in here now. Do you have to go out?”

Touched by her concern, Jim refocused his thoughts and answered lightly, “Are you kidding? Garry’s Pizza delivers here all weekend, every weekend. I bet he has at least five other orders with him when he comes.”

Trixie smiled and leaned back on the pillow. At once, Jim was struck by the strange new expression in her eyes he had noted more than once since Trixie arrived. With the force of a thunderbolt, he suddenly realized that it was a combination of shyness and passion. Jim felt his body respond as he read the desire in her eyes, and found his lips drawn to hers. Gently exploring her mouth, all his senses come alive in a way he had never known. Kissing Trixie was like nothing he had ever experienced, and it was more and more wonderful each time. Several minutes later, they were interrupted by a sturdy knock on the door.

Jim pulled away, breathing heavily. Running a hand through his hair and smiling at Trixie, he said,. “I think our dinner is here.” With a generous tip to the delivery person for venturing out in the inclement driving conditions, he paid for the pizza.

Closing the door behind him, he looked around the room in consternation. Besides his desk, there was nowhere to put the pizza. He had only one chair, and Trixie needed to keep her ankle elevated. Jim shrugged and made the best of the situation.

“Well, shall we pull a Mart and eat pizza in bed?”

“As long as you don’t mind a few crumbs in your bed.” Trixie replied. “We both know how gracefully I eat.”

Jim smiled and settled himself on the bed next to her. They soon devoured the pizza, dropping surprisingly few crumbs in the bed. As Jim returned from taking the cardboard pizza box to the recycling bin, he looked at Trixie thoughtfully. “We could head over to the student union building and watch some TV if you like. It’s pretty dead on Saturday nights, so there’s a chance we might even be able to pick what we watch.”

Trixie shook her head. “If you don’t mind, I’d rather just stay here. My ankle is feeling much better, but I still don’t feel like walking that far. And I don’t know what I would wear.”

Jim shrugged. “You’d be surprised what some of the students wear for watching TV. But staying in is fine, too. I did promise you hot chocolate, didn’t I?”

Trixie smiled. “That you did.”

Jim busied himself plugging in his small, portable kettle and finding hot chocolate powder and mugs. As he waited for the water in the kettle to boil, Jim noticed the incessant tapping of Trixie’s fingers. “I’m doing my best,” he protested, “but you know what they say about a watched pot.”

Trixie looked at him in confusion. “Oh, right. No, I’m just getting a little fidgety. I can’t even remember the last time I sat in the same spot for so long.” She paused. “Oh, yeah. The bus ride here.” She shuddered. “I am so not looking forward to doing that again tomorrow. Do you think my parents would notice if I just stayed here until my classes started next fall?”

Jim pretended to be thoughtful. “Hmm. No one to look after Bobby when they want some time to themselves? I’m pretty sure they’d notice.”

Trixie grinned. “I guess so. I’m sorry for being such a grump, Jim. I feel like I’ve ruined your plans for this weekend.”

Jim smiled and added a small amount of water to the mugs to dissolve the hot chocolate powder before filling them. Bringing the hot chocolate to Trixie, he reassured her, “Trixie, I couldn’t care less what we do this weekend. Just having you here makes it perfect.”

He gazed into Trixie’s eyes and saw the same combination of shyness and passion he had noticed earlier. Setting both their drinks on the floor, Jim lowered himself to the bed and took Trixie in his arms. She eagerly wrapped her arms around his neck and ran gentle fingers through his hair.

“Good answer, Mr. Frayne, good answer.”

Jim covered her lips with his own, cutting off any further comments she had planned to make. The flickering flame between them soon kindled into a blaze of passion. Now that Trixie was in his arms, on his bed, Jim couldn't remember any of the promises he had made to Mr. Belden. All he could think of was the beautiful woman in his arms kissing him with a fervour previously unimagined by either of them.

As Jim shifted slightly to move closer to Trixie, he felt her wince sharply and realized that he had bumped into her injured ankle. Berating himself, Jim quickly adjusted the pillows and settled her leg comfortably again. Still holding her ankle, he looked down and remembered taking her to his pre-med friend to have it examined. A stab of jealousy almost stronger than his worry had overcome him when Mike gently pressed and prodded her ankle. I'm being ridiculous, but I don't even want to share her ankle with another man. Realizing that Trixie was alone with him now, he kissed her ankle softly and returned to her side.

As Trixie welcomed his lips on hers, he was overcome with a need to touch more of her. He ran his hands slowly up and down her arms, and discovered that her sweater was unbuttoned. After a few more kisses, he gently put his hands on her shoulders underneath the sweater. When Trixie didn’t push him away, he started caressing her shoulders, and the sweater soon slid off her arms. Jim drew in his breath sharply at the sight of Trixie in a form-fitting tank top. He had seen her in much less clothing, of course, swimming at the Wheeler’s lake, but this was somehow different. Very different.

Allowing his trembling hands to touch her bare neck and collarbone, Jim was pleasantly surprised when he felt Trixie slip her hands underneath his shirt. Enjoying her exploration of his own body, Jim suddenly stiffened when her fingers found the scars on his back. Gently running her hands along the length of one scar, Trixie looked at him with a question in her eyes. Of course, they both knew the origin of the scars. His time with Jonesy had marked him both physically and emotionally.

Jim closed his eyes and felt again the searing pain and humiliation, now replaced with gentle touches and concern.

And desire.

As Trixie grew more comfortable touching him, Jim was shocked to discover how incredibly electrified he was by her hands on his scars. It was almost as if she had the power to transform his former suffering to pleasure.

“Does it hurt?” came a small whisper. Jim had to fight the blood rushing in his ears to understand what Trixie was saying. Although he didn’t think he was capable of speech, he managed to gasp, “Only when you stop.”

Unable to hold back, Jim allowed his hands to rest on Trixie’s hips. Soon, he was kissing a trail down her neck and gently easing his hands underneath her top. When Trixie allowed the softest of moans to escape her lips, Jim knew that he had come to a crossroads. If he didn’t stop now, one of two things would happen. He would either keep going until Trixie told him to stop, or, if she didn't, he would break his promise to his mother. Neither option appealed to him.

Sighing inwardly, Jim reluctantly returned his hands to the outside of Trixie’s top. He continued to kiss her, forcing himself to lessen the passion gradually. He knew that Trixie would feel rejected if he suddenly pulled away completely. Struggling to remain in control, Jim mentally recited various subjects he had been forced to memorize over the years. He began with the periodic table that had stood him in good stead the previous day, moved on to mathematical formulas, and ended with Shakespeare. Knowing that he would never again think of, “The quality of mercy is not strained,” without associating it with Trixie, he gently kissed and held her until his own passion began to abate. When she finally opened her eyes, he held her securely, running his hands along her arms.

“Let's get some sleep,” he suggested, hoping that she understood. Her eyes inscrutable, Trixie hesitated, then nodded. Wrapping her securely in his arms, Jim listened to Trixie’s even breathing and closed his eyes.

Jim stood with Trixie at the bus depot the next morning, silent. His world had tilted precariously that weekend, and he was still reeling from the shock. For years, he had known that he loved Trixie. What I didn't know was how impossibly difficult it was going to be to wait for the right time for us to be together. As the bus began boarding passengers, Trixie stood. Jim picked up her bag and moved to stand directly behind her. He wrapped his arms around her and lowered his chin to her soft curls.

Trixie twisted slightly in his arms, and tried to say something. “Jim, I…”

At a loss for words himself, Jim silenced her with a kiss - a soft gentle kiss meant to comfort and cherish. When he released her, he simply said, “I love you.”

Trixie’s startled blue eyes met his intense green gaze. Recovering from her surprise, she moved further into his embrace. “I love you, too, Jim. Always.”

Jim watched her board the bus and manoeuvre her way to a window seat. He smiled as she pressed her face to the glass and waved to him. Watching the bus pull out of sight, Jim sighed and headed for his car. As much as he knew that he loved her, he also knew that he might never understand everything there was to know about Trixie Belden. She had given more of herself to him this weekend that he had anticipated, or even dreamed of, but deep down, Jim knew that she was holding back. She still had secrets that she wasn’t sharing. Jim smiled and got behind the wheel of his car. In good time, Frayne, in good time.

Author’s Notes

1.Huge thanks to Dianafan, who edited this not once, not twice, but three times, without a single complaint. You're incredible!
2.A heartfelt thank you to PatK, who willingly provided me with information both about UVA and Virginia, and helped me get the details right. I appreciate it!
3.These characters (with the exception of Chad, who appeared as Jim's roommate in You Don't Know Me) belong to Random House. I am using them without permission.
4.Originally posted at Misty's awesome site.
5.Quando, Quando, Quando is based on the song of the same name as sung by Michael Buble (duet with Nelly Furtado) on the album It's Time.

Copyright 2006 by Ryl

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