Best Laid Plans
Chapter Five: Surprise
When Roxton had sneaked out in the wee hours, it had been to send Veronica, Finn, and Challenger back to the Treehouse. The trio had wanted to stay until they could all return home together. Olteus told them she needed several more days before she could make the journey back home; he didn't want the wound on her leg opening up. Roxton convinced the others to go back to the Treehouse, assuring them that he would stay with Marguerite. Reluctantly Veronica, Finn, and Challenger agreed to leave without the hunter and heiress, but wanted to finish the trading that Veronica, Finn and Marguerite had originally come to do before heading home.
While the others began bargaining for items the group had run out of and material for Finn's new clothes, Roxton went back to the shaman's hut. When he got to the door he could hear Assai and "the spirited one", as Jacoba called Marguerite, talking.
When Marguerite realized it was Roxton at the door she quickly switched to speaking with Assai in the Zanga woman's native tongue. Before the hunter entered, Assai quickly hid the shirt in the basket she had brought the first-aid in.
They're up to something, and I have a feeling that it will only cause more trouble, the good-looking lord thought as he entered the hut. Assai smiled at Roxton as she got up to leave. As she said her good-byes to Marguerite she mentioned that she'd work on taking the shirt apart that night and find some material for a new one. Roxton had no idea what was being said, but Marguerite was smiling and looking much better than she had the day before, so he was content.
"I'll see you later, Lord Roxton," Assai said as she left the hut.
"What are you up to, my queen?" the dark-haired aristocrat inquired as he walked closer to enigmatic Miss Krux.
"Would you stop calling me that?" Marguerite asked, rolling her eyes and smiling at him.
"But I thought you liked it," he replied, pouring more of the remedy into her cup.
"Look, haven't I had enough of that yet?" the brunette woman complained.
"Is it all gone?" he asked playfully, looking into the pitcher and knowing what he would find. "Not yet so no, you haven't had enough of it. Now drink up." He handed her the cup.
"You're all heart, you know that, John Roxton? All heart," was the response he got before she took a deep breath and drained the cup. She nonchalantly handed the cup back to her tormentor.
"You wouldn't have it any other way," he teased, placing the cup on the table while sitting down on the bed next to her.
"In your dreams, Roxton. In your dreams," she mockingly scolded.
"Well it's nice to see you in such good spirits. You must be feeling better."
"I guess so. As nasty as that medicine is it must be working." She yawned and tried to stretch, but her leg and shoulder protested and she quickly sucked in a breath and stopped moving.
"What is it?" Roxton asked, concerned when he saw her pained expression.
"Nothing. I shouldn't have tried that, that's all. I'm fine," she replied, touching his stubbled cheek, not wanting him to worry about her any more.
"May I come in?" Jarl asked from the doorway.
"Certainly, please do," Marguerite answered as Roxton turned to see the new arrival.
"Roxton, many of the men have heard of your great hunting skills and have asked me to invite you to join us on our hunt tomorrow," the Zanga warrior informed the mighty hunter.
"I'm flattered, Jarl, but I really shouldn't leave Marguerite alone," Roxton tried to turn the warrior down.
"Nonsense, John, you shouldn't stay cooped up in here all day because of me," the injured heiress encouraged. "I'll be fine. I won't be alone; Assai and Olteus will be coming to check on me quite often. I'll probably just sleep a lot, especially if I have to take any more of that cure of Olteus'."
"Are you sure you wouldn't mind?" Roxton asked hesitantly. He knew she was up to something but he also knew if he stayed around, he'd never find out what it was. Maybe hunting with Jarl and the other warriors would give him the chance to see if Assai had mentioned her conversation with Marguerite to her husband.
"Of course not. I'll be fine. You should go," Marguerite suggested positively.
Roxton turned back to the waiting Zanga. "Jarl, I'd be honored to join you and your men. Thank you," he said.
"I will let the men know. We leave at dawn," Jarl replied as he left the hut.
"Roxton?" Marguerite asked as her stomach growled.
Roxton heard it and smiled. "Yes, my que my dear?"
"Is there anything to eat around here?" she asked as he laughed at her.
"I'll go find something. I'll be right back," he told her, getting up and leaving.
Soon he was back with some food. They talked and ate until Marguerite could no longer keep her eyes open.
"Sleep well, my queen," Roxton whispered as he pulled the cover over the sleeping woman.
"I heard that," she murmured drowsily.
Roxton kissed her on the cheek. "Go to sleep. I'll see you when you wake up."
"Where are you going?" Marguerite asked.
"I'm going to see if Jarl and his men need me to help them prepare for tomorrow's hunt. You'll be sleeping, you won't even miss me," he teased as he brushed a few strands of stray hair out of her face.
"I thought you were going to stay," she replied enticingly.
"I'll be back before you even wake up," he assured her as he tried to stand up. Before he could, she reached up with her right hand and pulled his face closer. She teasingly brushed her lips over his. He responded in kind and as he gently pushed her towards the pillow he deepened the kiss.
"Have a nice nap," he said pulling away from the temptation to stay where he was. He walked towards the door.
"Like I'm going to get any sleep after that," he heard her mumble sleepily.
Roxton laughed softly as he walked out of the hut. Challenger, who wanted to check on Marguerite, greeted him.
"I take it the patient is feeling better?" the visionary commented, noticing the change in the rugged lord's spirits.
"That she is George, that she is. I have a feeling Marguerite will sleep for the rest of the day," Roxton said, gently slapping Challenger on the back as they walked towards the center of the Zanga village where Veronica and Finn were. The two men joined the young women as they continued trading. Once the trading was done, John left to seek out Jarl. Veronica, Finn, and Challenger spent the rest of the day enjoying the company of the Zangas.
Once Roxton found Jarl and the other warriors, they discussed where they would be hunting the next day. Periodically the handsome lord would excuse himself to check on the sleeping Marguerite. As soon as the plans were made, Jarl, Roxton, and the warriors joined the rest of the village for the evening meal. After dinner everyone went to their respective huts and turned in for the night.
Roxton woke when the first rays of light hit him. He moved about the hut quietly so he wouldn't wake Marguerite. She was sleeping peacefully. He gently kissed her on the forehead before leaving to join Jarl and the other warriors. Once he left the hut, the ginger-haired scientist and the two blonde women greeted John. They said their good-byes as Jarl and the warriors came to meet the hunter. After promising to travel safely, the group parted ways. Challenger, Finn, and Veronica headed towards the Treehouse while Roxton, Jarl, and the Zanga warriors finished gathering supplies for the hunt. The men ate breakfast as they headed towards the day's hunting grounds. Many of the warriors asked Roxton questions and he did his best to answer them as Jarl translated.
When the hunting party stopped to rest at midday, the curious lord took the chance to speak to Jarl. "Jarl, yesterday after Assai finished redressing Marguerite's wounds, they had been talking in English, but as soon as I entered the room, they switched to your native tongue. It makes me think they are up to something, which worries me. Did Assai mention anything to you about what they talked about?"
Jarl looked at Roxton. "I am sorry Lord Roxton, I do not know what they talked about. Assai does not always confided in me, especially if it concerns the ways of women," the leader of the Zanga hunting party answered.
Well that got me nowhere. I suppose I'll just have to trust that Marguerite will not get herself into any more trouble, the exasperated hunter thought as they continued hunting.
A couple of hours after Roxton, Jarl, and the other warriors left, Assai came into the shaman's hut and woke up Marguerite.
"Good morning, Marguerite, I've brought you some coffee. Roxton said it would make it easier to wake you up," Assai said, setting a cup of steaming dark liquid on the table next to the bed. She also set down a plate of fruit and bread. Marguerite drank most of the coffee before she even touched the food. Soon the two women were busy looking at the material Assai had brought with her. There were many colors, but the one Marguerite chose was a dark green. It will bring out the green in his eyes, she thought. Assai brought out the 'pattern' she had taken apart last night.
"Assai, thank you so much for helping me with this. I don't know how I would have been able to do this without your help," Marguerite said. While she ate, Marguerite explained to Assai how to lay the pieces out on the green material so it could be cut out. They spent the better part of the morning getting the shirt cut out.
While they worked, Assai made sure Marguerite drank another cup of Olteus' remedy. By noon they had begun sewing the shirt. Assai tried to convince the stubborn woman to let her do the sewing, but Marguerite was determined to do as much of it as she could. Getting into the rhythm of sewing Marguerite forgot about her injured left arm and lifted it in a habitual motion to shift the fabric, causing her shoulder to twinge in protest. She looked up at Assai, who said nothing but quietly took over.
The heiress was starting to nod off when finally Assai said, "Ok, time to rest now. I'll come back later and we'll work some more."
"Perhaps you're right. I am a bit tired. Thank you, Assai," Marguerite said as she lay down.
Assai collected the sewing things from her and set them aside for when she was ready to continue the project.
Marguerite slept for the rest of the day. She woke up long enough to drink the one last cup full of the cure and to work a little more on her present for Roxton. But soon she was tired and fell asleep.
When Roxton, Jarl, and the other Zanga men returned, John went directly to the hut to check on Marguerite. She was sleeping, so he left to find a place to clean up. Then he joined the Zanga for the evening meal. He took a plate back for Marguerite when he was finished.
The fiery brunette was just starting to wake when he came in.
"Hungry?" he asked as he held out the plate of food for her to see.
"As long as it isn't dead lizard or raptor," the dark-haired adventuress joked, sitting up. Once he was sure she was comfortable, Roxton set the plate of food on her lap. Then he sat on the bed next to her.
"It's not. What did you do today?" he asked her as she ate.
"Not much. Assai and I talked and I slept a lot," she responded in between bites.
"Did you finish all that yummy medicine?" he teased, looking for the pitcher.
"Yes, I did. Olteus said as long as I don't over do it the next couple of days I should be able to travel soon," she said triumphantly.
"That's good. Well I don't know about you, but I've had a long day. I think I'll turn in," the gorgeous lord said as he took the plate from his lady.
"Before you go to sleep, John, I need your help," the heiress requested.
"My help? Doing what?" Roxton replied.
Marguerite blushed a little. "I need to go," she whispered.
"Go where?" the tired hunter asked.
"Roxton, you know, GO," Marguerite said, exasperated.
"Oh, you mean that go," he chuckled. "I just have one question my dear, how have you been taking care of this matter?" he continued when he didn't notice any sort of chamber pot in the hut.
Marguerite motioned with her head towards the back left corner of the hut, "There's an urn in that corner that Assai brought earlier for me to use. Would you bring it over here please?" the lovely brunette asked.
As Roxton went to the corner to retrieve the urn for his lady, he asked, "Is this thing empty?"
"It should be, Assai took it out, then brought it back the last time I used it."
"That's good," the hunter remarked, as he handed it to her. He stood there watching her, waiting for her to use the urn.
"Are you going to turn around?"
"Oh, sorry," the hunter mumbled, slightly embarrassed as he turned his back to her. It wasn't long before she spoke up again.
"I'm finished," she said softly, holding out the urn.
"What am I suppose to do with it now?" the confused aristocrat asked taking it.
"I'd love to help you, but I'm not allowed to get out of bed, remember? Go ask Assai or Olteus where to take it. Really, John, you act like you've never had to empty a chamber pot before or a bedpan," the amused woman replied as he left the hut with the urn.
When Roxton returned with the now empty urn, Marguerite was still awake. "I can't believe you've never emptied one before," she quietly laughed.
"Oh and I suppose you have?" the tired hunter retorted slightly harsher than he intended as he returned the container to it's home in the corner.
"As a matter of fact I have," the drained heiress replied sharply.
Before he returned to Marguerite's bedside, Roxton sensed the change in mood. "Marguerite, I didn't mea--" he started as he sat next to her on the bed.
Marguerite reached up and caressed the side of his face. "Roxton, I know. I guess I forgot that we've lead different lives."
"I guess I did, too," the hunter commented as he leaned closer to his ladylove, gently sliding one arm between her back and the pillow, pulling her towards him. He leaned his forehead against hers for a few seconds and then began kissing her. He could feel her pulse racing as she wrapped her arms around him while tenderly returning the kiss. Marguerite leaned in closer intensifying the kiss; as she did, he slipped his other arm around her and affectionately started rubbing her back. As the passion increased, he softly pushed her into the pillow. Marguerite lovingly caressed his back with her left hand while moving her right hand to the nape of his neck, urging him to continue. As she moved Roxton shifted their position so they were lying facing each other. He tenderly stroked her back as his right hand wandered down the length of her body until he reached her shapely bottom and began seductively massaging it. Roxton could hear Marguerite's soft sigh of pleasure as he continued.
Needing to breathe but loathe to stop kissing the one woman who had the ability to break his heart, Roxton ended it. Marguerite looked into his eyes as he caressed her cheek. "You should get some sleep. We're leaving early in the morning."
"So should you," she responded huskily.
"Like I'm going to get any sleep after that," he teased her as she stirred. Softly laughing, Marguerite reminded him, "I'm not the one that started that this time."
Roxton smiled and shook his head at her as he moved off the bed. He stood next to the bed with his back to her, staring with distain at the uncomfortable bedroll on the floor. Then he turned to look at Marguerite. She contentedly watched him, smiling as her eyes started to drift closed.
"Good night, my love," he finally said as he made his way towards the bedroll.
"John, isn't the floor cold?"
"It's not that bad. I've slept on colder ground."
Sounding slightly dejected, the sleepy adventuress replied softly, "Oh." Upon hearing her, the hunter turned around and walked back to the bed. "Was that your way of offering to share body heat?"
The only answer he received was Marguerite holding up the blanket covering her. Roxton quickly slipped under the cover. As he got comfortable on his back, Marguerite rested her head on his shoulder. They both quickly fell asleep.
The next several days were the same routine. Roxton went hunting or exploring with Jarl and the other Zanga men while Marguerite and Assai worked on his present. Each day Marguerite got better and her wounds were healing nicely. Olteus even let her get up and walk around a little each day. By the end of the seventh day the hunter and heiress had been with the Zangas, Olteus declared that "the spirited one" was fit to travel.
Roxton was glad they could leave. He had been having a wonderful time, but quite honestly, he missed his own bed. Sleeping on the floor of the hut he and Marguerite were sharing was making his back hurt.
Marguerite was also pleased at the prospect of their departure, but she was worried, too. Her present for Roxton wasn't quite finished. When Roxton left with Jarl and the other warriors for a final day of hunting, she sought out Assai and explained the problem.
"Marguerite," the Zanga princess said, "I know you want to do this yourself, but if you want it finished before you leave, you must let me help you. I've watched you enough to know how you're doing this and I know I can finish it for you."
"I suppose you're right. Thank you so much for helping me with this," Marguerite said.
The two women quickly set to work. Before they knew it, the day was almost over. Assai took the shirt with her and promised to finish it that night. Marguerite took a nap until Roxton returned. They shared a leisurely dinner and spent time talking, with Marguerite encouraging Roxton to share how his day went. Roxton related to her how he, Jarl, and the other men had tracked a wild pig into a clearing only to have it attacked by a pack of hungry raptors. To make up for their loss of the pig, the men all decided that taking a raptor would have to do. Just as Roxton started to describe how they went about dressing the raptor to bring it home he noticed Marguerite yawning, not realizing it was planned. She had deftly avoided having to tell him about her day. As she yawned again, Roxton ended his tale. Marguerite fell asleep first with Roxton following soon after.
The couple woke early and was ready to go as soon as they finished eating breakfast. Jarl and Assai walked them to the gate.
As the heiress hugged Assai good-bye, she whispered, "Thanks for helping me make Roxton's present. I wouldn't have been able to finish it without your help."
"I was happy to help," the Zanga princess replied, returning the hug. Then she placed the finished shirt in Marguerite's pack as Roxton and Jarl spoke.
"Jarl, thank you for allowing me to join you and your men while Marguerite recovered. I enjoyed it," the hunter offered as he and Assai's husband shook hands.
"It was an honor to have you with us. Safe journey home." the Zanga man replied.
"What was that all about?" Roxton asked Marguerite as they headed out of the Zanga village.
"What was what about?" she responded innocently.
"Nothing," he replied when he realized she wouldn't tell him anything. "How are you feeling?" he asked instead.
"I'm feeling well, thank you. How are you doing?" She smiled.
"Very well thank you," Roxton answered a bit amused and annoyed by the formality of the conversation. He knew she was up to something but she wasn't about to tell him. He was worried that it was a scheme that would only lead to her getting hurt or worse.
They continued their trip home with the rugged lord trying to figure out just what the mysterious heiress was up to. When it was clear she wasn't going to reveal anything, Roxton gave up trying to talk. They continued on in silence until he noticed Marguerite was lagging behind him. Without realizing it, in his frustration that she was keeping yet another secret from him, Roxton had increased his pace. Marguerite had done her best in the beginning to keep up, but after having spent the better part of a week laid up, she quickly fell behind.
Marguerite finally broke the silence. "Roxton, I need to rest, just for a little while." She found a rather large tree stump to sit on.
The handsome adventurer walked back to where the weary woman sat and offered her, his canteen as a way of apologizing for the quick pace he had set.
"I guess I'm just in a hurry to get back to my own bed," he commented as she handed the canteen back. Roxton joined her on the stump.
"I guess so," was all she said. After eating a bit of the food Assai had packed for them and drinking some more water, Marguerite felt ready to continue on.
"Can we go a little slower now, please?" she asked, mildly annoyed as Roxton offered his hand to help her stand. John smiled and nodded his head affirmatively as they stared on the trail once again. After several more hours they finally stopped and made camp for the night in a small, secluded grove of trees. Roxton had to convince Marguerite to let him take the first watch. Once she was asleep, he tried to find her pack, to peek inside; hoping to find what she and Assai had been up to. Unfortunately for him, she was using it as a pillow.
The rugged adventurer woke up the sleeping heiress after letting her sleep for several hours. Once the sunlight started streaming through the trees, Roxton was awake. They ate breakfast and packed up in silence. Marguerite knew that John suspected she was up to no good, but she wasn't about to let him know what she and Assai had done while he was off with the Zanga warriors.
They were back at the Treehouse by mid-afternoon. Veronica was working in her garden when she saw them coming home. She rushed to open the gate in the electric fence. "Marguerite, Roxton, welcome home!" she exclaimed, closing the gate behind them. "It's good to see you!" She gave each of them a hug before the trio entered the elevator and rode it up to the Treehouse.
"Hello? Anyone home?" Roxton called out as they exited the elevator. "I've brought someone with me." He took off his pack. "Would you like me to hang that up?" he asked Marguerite when he noticed she still wore hers.
"No, I'll put it away in a minute," she assured him with a smile. Careful not to jar her newly healed shoulder, she shrugged out of her pack and held it in her good hand.
"I'll take it, Marguerite," offered Veronica.
"No thank you," the heiress replied, garnering herself a curious look from the blonde woman.
At that moment Challenger and Finn rushed up from the lab and warm greetings were exchanged all around.
Roxton put his hand on the small of Marguerite's back as he spoke. "Ok, ok, we can catch up later. Right now someone I know should probably take a nap. I promised a certain shaman that I'd make sure she wouldn't over do it her first day home."
The others went back to their tasks as Roxton led Marguerite to her room.
"Really, John, you don't have to baby-sit me. I'm a big girl and can take care of myself," Marguerite said. She allowed Roxton to take her pack from her once they entered her room. He set it down next to her bed.
"I know that, but you look tired. Maybe you should lie down for a while. I'll come wake you in time for dinner," the hunter told the heiress as he turned to leave the room.
"Roxton, thank you," she murmured as she watched him leave. When she was sure he was gone, Marguerite opened her pack and pulled out the present Assai had put in it. The Zanga princess had used the remains of the red and white striped shirt to wrap the new one in. The feisty adventuress scanned her room for a good hiding place. While she looked around her room, Veronica knocked on the doorframe.
"May I come in?"
"Yes," Marguerite answered distractedly.
"While you and Roxton were at the Zanga village, I found out when Roxton's birthday is from Challenger," the young woman said, watching her friend put something under the bed.
"When is it?" the preoccupied brunette asked from near the floor.
"Tomorrow," the jungle beauty answered.
"What?" Marguerite exclaimed as she stood up a little too fast. She quickly sat down on her bed. "It's tomorrow? We don't have anything planned. I guess I lost track of time while recuperating," she said distractedly.
"Marguerite, don't worry. While you and Roxton were gone, Finn, Challenger, and I worked on decorations. Tomorrow Challenger will ask Roxton to go with him to help with maintenance on the windmill. If you're up to it, you can go with them to keep an eye out for raptors while Finn and I decorate and make the cake," Veronica suggested.
Marguerite looked at her younger friend. "Trying to get rid of me again so soon?" the heiress commented only half jokingly.
Veronica sat down next to the dark-haired woman who had developed into a big sister for her. "What are you talking about? I'm not trying to get rid of you," the flaxen-haired young lady replied.
"Veronica, I know when I'm not wanted. You don't have to pretend," the saddened heiress retorted. "First you didn't want me to go to the Zanga village with you and Finn, now you don't want me around while you and she decorate."
"Oh, Marguerite, is that what all this is about? You're feeling left out?" Veronica asked as she gently put her arm around Marguerite's shoulders. "You know you are wanted around here, don't you?"
The beautiful former spy looked at her friend and then shook her head. "Most of the time, not really. Sometimes I feel like you and Finn just tolerate me because Roxton and Challenger make you," she said, looking away.
Veronica closed her eyes as she realized that the time she and Finn spent together was making Marguerite feel left out. It had never occurred to Veronica or Finn to ask or include the heiress; they simply assumed she wouldn't want to join them.
"Marguerite, I'm sorry. I had no idea that you felt this way. Finn and I figured you wouldn't want to join us in the mornings because you always sleep so late. We didn't think you'd like to go with us when we go hiking because you complain so much when we all take a trip anywhere," Veronica tried to explain.
"Veronica, did it ever occur to you, Finn, or anyone else in this house that the reason I behave in the manner you've described is that I'm protecting myself from being hurt by any of you?" the adventuress asked softly. It was an admission she'd never expected to make to the younger woman.
Veronica tried to turn Marguerite so they were facing each other, but the heiress wouldn't move. "Marguerite, did it ever occur to you to ask us if you could come along?"
"It has, but I learned a very long time ago to not ask for things like that. After one has been 'slapped on the hand' a few times for asking to be included, one just gives up," the dark-haired woman said, finally turning to face her friend. The pain of her childhood was evident in her eyes.
"Marguerite, we are not like those people. We are your family, and it is ok to ask us to include you," Veronica smiled.
Taking a deep breath, Marguerite said, "Veronica, I'd much rather stay here and help decorate than go with Challenger and Roxton. I think they can take care of themselves for a couple of hours, don't you?"
"That's a great idea. With the three of us decorating we'll get done in no time," Veronica replied. "Now you'd better take that nap Roxton sent you in here for or he'll have my head," she finished. She gave Marguerite a hug before leaving the room.
Marguerite laid down but couldn't sleep. She was smiling when Roxton came to get her for dinner several hours later.
That night as they all sat around the dinner table, Challenger and Finn couldn't help but notice that the heiress looked exceptionally happy, more so than she had in weeks.
After dinner the gentlemen volunteered to do the cleaning up. Veronica and Finn went with Marguerite to her room so they could discuss the plans for Roxton's party. They soon had it all planned and were laughing at silly stories Finn was telling them. As Roxton came near the room, they stopped laughing.
"You two had better leave before my warden arrests you," Marguerite said, loud enough for him to hear.
Finn and Veronica winked at their older sister as they left the room.
"Warden, huh? Is that what you think of me?" the hunter asked as he entered the room.
"With the way you've been hovering around me lately, yes. I can't even breathe without you noticing," she teased him.
"Well I wouldn't want Olteus to come after me. I think he was quite taken with you," Roxton said, leaning down to kiss Marguerite good night.
"Jealous are you?" she whispered just before his mouth covered hers.
"Not really, I think I know where I stand with you," he said just before leaving her.
The next morning at breakfast Challenger asked Roxton to help him check on the windmill. The handsome lord looked at the beautiful heiress before responding.
"Don't look at me, I'm not your warden, remember?" she taunted him with a smile.
"Fine. I'll go with Challenger then," the rugged hunter retorted as he watched his love gather up the dishes and carry them into the kitchen where Finn and Veronica were washing them.
"Fine with me I don't know if I could stand another day with you anyway," she called from the kitchen, hoping that he'd get just mad enough at her to actually leave the house.
"Challenger, I'm ready when you are," she heard Roxton bellow.
"Have fun, boys, and watch out for raptors," Veronica said as she walked out to gather the remaining dishes.
Almost immediately after the men went down in the lift, Finn raced to the balcony to watch them leave the compound. She could hear Roxton mumbling angrily about independent, stubborn, dark-haired vixens.
"Oh, Marguerite, I think he's really mad at you," the youngest member of the family said as she watched Veronica and Marguerite start pulling out the decorations.
"He'll be fine once he and Challenger are back from the windmill," Veronica said, tossing some of the decorations to Finn.
"How do you know?" Finn asked. She started hanging the decorations.
"I've lived with the two of them for three years now, Finn, trust me, I know." Veronica grinned at Marguerite, who just rolled her eyes and started putting a clean tablecloth on the table.
"Don't you have a cake to bake or something?" the heiress asked as she finished with the table. Then she helped Finn with the decorations as Veronica escaped into the kitchen.
After an hour the ladies of the house were done with all the decorating. Veronica brought the cake out when it was finished and put it in the center of the table. Each one then disappeared to her room to retrieve the gift she had for the protector of the family. They placed the gifts around the cake.
An hour after that they finally heard the elevator coming up. Marguerite was lounging in the hammock on the balcony so Roxton would think she'd taken it easy while he had been with Challenger. Veronica and Finn were sitting on the rail near her when the two men emerged from the lift,
"Surprise!" the three women and Challenger shouted.
Roxton looked around at all the decorations, the cake, and the presents. He looked at Challenger. "You told them didn't you?" he accused the visionary.
"Guilty as charged," Challenger said in mock defense.
"Come on, big guy, open your presents!" the most exuberant one of the group said, bouncing over to the table.
Veronica and Marguerite followed their younger friend. Marguerite stood behind the others as Roxton opened the gifts. Challenger had somehow fashioned a new flask out of some old metal he'd found. Veronica gave John a drawing she'd done of Marguerite, which he didn't show to her. Finn had made him a leather pouch, with Challenger and Veronica's help, for his new flask. When he finally picked up a familiar red and white striped object, he looked at the dark-haired woman across the room.
"So this is what happened to my favorite shirt, you ran out of paper to wrap things with?" he teased.
Marguerite stared at him apprehensively as he slowly opened the last present. When he pulled out the green shirt, his eyes lit up. He walked over to the woman who was responsible for the demise of his favorite shirt.
"Now I know what you and Assai were up to and why Jarl kept insisting I join him and the others in their hunts while you were recuperating," he said.
"Yes. I had to get rid of you somehow. I couldn't very well make your present with you sitting right there," she replied.
He held the shirt up to his chest and turned around to show it to the others, "Well what do you think?" he asked.
"It looks good," Challenger said.
"Green suits you," Veronica replied.
"Can we cut the cake now?" Finn asked.
They all laughed. Roxton put down his new shirt and headed over to the table to cut the cake. The others sat down at the table and Roxton served each a slice of the cake. Before he let them eat, however, Roxton spoke up.
"I'd like to thank you all for the wonderful party and gifts. It means a lot to me that you'd go to all this effort on my behalf, but the best gift I received is " He paused as he turned to Marguerite and took her hand. " that you recovered."
As he looked down at her, Marguerite squeezed his hand affectionately. She stood up and hugged him. Then she surprised not only him, but also the others by kissing him.
"Happy Birthday, my love."
Author's End Notes: For information on the Araweté please visit: http://www.socioambiental.org/website/pib/epienglish/arawete/matcult.shtm
For information on Piranha: I had a link but it doesn't work. I did a Google search for the information I used. Good luck with that, should you try a search!