He was coming home after almost ten years. She had gotten a letter! It was the first letter she had gotten since the reorganized Pony Express Service had begun its deliveries. Until that time, Shay had not had any idea whether Brady was alive, dead, or Other.
According to his letter, Brady had been in D.C. when the Event happened, and had not been able to get outside the fence until now. They weren’t letting anyone out unless they were absolutely certain that they weren’t Other, and if they let Brady out, he was alive and well.
Shay rummaged around in the cabinet over the sink, looking for a square cake pan. One of the funny things about the A.E., After Event, was the shortage of grains. Most of the standardized grain varieties just wouldn’t grow anymore, so it had been necessary to raid the heritage varieties stored in seed banks and try to get enough of them growing. The first few years had been almost entirely grown for seed, and it had only been in the last few years that any had been available for distribution, and only this year that any had gotten this far west. She patted the sack of dried corn fondly. It had been difficult to get the seed, but the results were worth it.
A sound came from the lane out in front of the house. Shay froze. Was it Brady? She listened carefully, the sound of hooves pounded toward her from the east, but never slowed. It wasn’t Brady after all. She tried not to let disappointment take over, there was no predicting how long it would take to come this far. The roads were uncertain and plagued with thieves. Then the hooves sounded closer again returning. Maybe it was him after all. Her heart leapt in her breast as she froze in her tracks. Footsteps sounded on the wooden steps and there was a tentative knock on the door.
“Shay?” the query came muffled from the other side of the door. “Shay, are you here? They told me you were here.”
Shay gulped a breath of air, apparently she had been holding it while he walked up to the door. Her knees unlocked and she ran the few steps to pull open the door. It was Brady, a little older and worse for wear, but Brady!
“Oh my God, Brady, it really is you!” He looked to thin! But then, so did everyone these days.
Now it was Brady’s turn to freeze. He stared at her as if he’d never seen her before, and didn’t move forward through the doorway until Shay laughed and grabbed his hand to pull him in. Then he acted, and pulled her right into his arms.
“Brady! I didn’t know if you were alive or dead until I got your letter. I was so afraid!”
“I had no way.”
“Of course you didn’t. How could you have contacted me, cell phone?” She laughed again, almost hysterically this time. “But I waited. It was so hard.”
“Shay, you never ....”
“No, I never. And they tried to make me. I’m a young woman, most likely fertile. They tried very hard.”
“Shay, I was in D.C. through all of it. I probably am not a fertile male. The pressure is only going to get worse.”
“I know, my darling. but they will give us time to try. If I don’t get pregnant in six months or so, we may have to do something to appease them, but for now, it’s just us.”
Brady bent to press his lips to Shay’s forehead, then her cheeks, first left, then right. He pressed a firm but chase kiss to her lips. “ I have been riding for weeks, and I need to clean up. I don’t want to come to you reeking of the road.”
“Oh, Brady, I’d take you reeking of the sewers if need be! I never thought I’d see you again.”
What little sense of propriety Brady had melted away with her words. “I don’t think I’ve been in any sewers, but if you’ll just get me some water, I’ll wipe off the worst of the dust.”
Shay brought the bucket of water from the spring, and a soft cloth and wiped the dust of the road off Brady’s face. She treasured every stroke of the cloth as it touched her husband’s face. He looked older and there was some gray in his dark brown hair. She gently touched the lines beside his still-vivid blue eyes. He looked so beautiful to her.
Slowly she wiped off the accumulated grime of weeks of riding, adoring every inch of skin revealed. As Shay pushed Brady’s shirt off his shoulders, she traced a long scar on his left arm.
“I got that in the invasion. But it’s not a battle wound, it was an exploding glass window, a big piece cut right through my shirt.” Feeling her touching another scar on his lower back, he said, “But that one was caused by an actual claw.”
The scar was jagged and extended at least six inches, and was far too close to his kidneys for comfort. Shay brought her arms around to the Brady’s front and opened his jeans, one button at a time. She pushed them over his lean hips, waiting while he stepped out of them. Underwear was now an anachronism, so he was naked in front of her.
The bucket of water was grimy, so Shay dumped it outside the door in her small flower bed, and went to pull another bucketful of water. She walked down the short path to the spring, feeling Brady’s eyes on her back as she went. The respite was welcome. Brady’s return was so overwhelming, and she didn’t want to break down in tears right in front of him and ruin their reunion. Dipping her bucket into the spring of cold water, she pressed her eyes closed tight and tried to focus on the joy of their reunion.
Ten years! Another few months and she would have been forcibly paired with a man who could give her children. Even now, if she didn’t get pregnant, they would make her have sex with someone who could impregnate her. If she were fertile, anyway. But those problems would have to wait for another day.
Shay tossed her long blonde braid over her shoulder and started back toward the house. Brady was standing in the open doorway, completely naked and obviously delighted to see her. Oh my! She hurried toward him, dropping the bucket and oblivious of the water spilling onto the ground. Road dust be damned!
Shay flung herself into Brady’s waiting arms, and he lifted her off her feet. His kisses burned into her lips and she opened hers to allow him entrance. She felt his hands stroke down her back and lift the bottom of her cotton shirt to pull it over her head. Bras were also gone, not all new things were bad, so now she was naked from the waist up.
Brady stroked his hands back down her back and slipped his fingers into the waistband of her long cotton skirt. He pulled it down over her hips, feeling how much thinner she was. He remembered her as a little more than curvy, and always fretting about it. No amount of reassurance had convinced her that her love found every line, every curve of her endearing and enticing. Now she was more like the frame she had sought in that long ago day, and he found her just the same, it was her heart and her soul that he loved, the heart that had waited so long, and the soul with the strength to resist the pressures put on her to move forward and leave their love behind.
Now that they were both completely nude, Brady couldn’t stop caressing her, giving her little biting kisses that followed the pathways made by his hands on her flesh. He moved from her mouth to her neck, inhaling the fragrance that, even now without scented cosmetics available, was uniquely and sweetly hers. His lips descended to the rounded mounds of her breast, hands stroking, cupping, and lips closing over a rosy tip. He heard her gasp as he grazed her lightly with his teeth.
Shay was as hungry for Brady as he was for her. Her own hands roamed over the planes and valley of his skin, tingling with awareness. She pressed her lips to his shoulder and closed her eyes. No amount of contact could make up for ten years of doubt and worry, but it was enough to have him back at her side now. When Brady pressed the length of his lean masculine body against hers, she whimpered. Then she took his hand and pulled him toward the bedroom, trembling slightly with emotion and need.
Brady kept his other hand on Shay’s waist, needing to touch her with both hands. She looked so beautiful, even more beautiful than he remembered, and had her skin always been this soft? Her hair in that braid was catching his attention too. The moment they entered the bedroom and fell to the bed, tangled in each other’s arms, Brady pulled the braid loose, sinking his hands in the long waves. She had worn it shoulder length before, now it fell around both of them in a silken curtain. He moaned deep in this throat and captured her mouth in a kiss.
“Now, Brady, I’ve waited so long, now!”
“I missed you so much,’ He said, stroking her body in long, slow sweeps. “I want to relearn every inch of you.” As his hand slipped between her thighs, he felt how ready she was for him.
“We have time. But this time, this first time again, I want you inside me, now! I ache for you.”
Brady pressed Shay’s thighs apart with one muscular leg and slid inside her in one smooth stroke. He groaned and held still. “Give me just a minute, I don’t want to end it this soon.”
“I love you inside me,” Shay gasped, wrapping her legs around his waist and clutching Brady to her with both arms.
“Oh, Shay,” Brady pushed slowly, building a rhythm, in, out, pressing against just the spot inside her that he remembered made her writhe. And he wasn’t disappointed at her reaction.
“Brady, oh my God! I love you so much!” And just like that she was over the top.
Her muscles contracted around him, and he was quick to follow her into bliss. “I love you, Shay,” he cried out.
As her love collapsed on top of her, spent for the moment, Shay prayed that Brady would be able to impregnate her, and soon. If not, they would be forced to have another man in her bed, and she hated the idea. But the Event had made fertile people very valuable, and the Others were out there, probably getting ready to attack again. Shay would have to make sure and have a baby for the sake of humanity.
But for today, for this Thanksgiving, Shay had the love of her life back, in her arms and in her bed. And that was more than enough.