Thanks so much Alison and everyone else who stopped by Cookie’s fandango and wishing Tex lots of success!!!
Tex, may this be your first step down the trail to New York Times Bestseller!!!
See y’all round the campfire soon!
Thanks so much Alison and everyone else who stopped by Cookie’s fandango and wishing Tex lots of success!!!
Tex, may this be your first step down the trail to New York Times Bestseller!!!
See y’all round the campfire soon!
Sorry, we’re a bit late gettin’ this fandango started, but Cookie had to get the cake juuuust right…I swear sometimes that man can drive me to drink tainted water. Yeah, I’m talkin’ ’bout you Mr. Top Chef…Get on over there and start cuttin’ that dad-burned cake and let’s get this party started…
WHOOO-EEEEE, YEEEEE-HAW, AND RING THE DINNER BELL, HOOT AND HOLLER!! We’re celebratin’ like it’s Christmas round the campfire and that’s because the brand new publisher, Prairie Rose Publications has just released it’s brand spankin’ new Christmas anthology WISHING FOR A COWBOY (and let’s be serious who’d turn away a cowboy if ya found one under the tree). Eight beautiful, heartwarming, tear educing, perfect holiday stories by eight beautiful, heartwarming and bordering on perfect authors!!
ANNND as excited as we all are here round the campfire for all the wonderful authors and the new publishing house, our buttons are plumb bustin’ for Kathleen Rice Adams, aka Tex!!! YIPPEEEEE KI YAY!!! This is Kathleen’s big premiere, but it won’t be her last. I read her story PEACHES in the anthology and if your heart doesn’t grow three sizes too big after finishing it then I’ll send Cookie round to slap ya upside the head with the cast iron skillet ’cause you are guaranteed to fall in love with Whit, Ruth, the children and yes even those three busybodies! Seriously, one of the best Christmas stories I’ve read!!
I can’t wait to read the other offerings! Knowing Cheryl Pierson, Livia Washburn, Phyliss Miranda, Tracy Garrett, Sarah J. McNeal, Jacquie Rogers, and Tanya Hanson each will be a sweet treat for the season!
Here’s a sneak peek of all the stories in WISHING FOR A COWBOY! AND FOLKS TEX IS OFFERIN’ UP A FREE E-COPY OF THE ANTHOLOGY TO ONE LUCKY COMMENTER!! YEP, IT’S A PARTY FOR HER AND SHE’S BRINGIN’ THE GIFT!! (Winner will be announced Sunday, November 3rd since Cookie held up the works…Don’t give me the skunk eye duffer, I told ya the first cake was fine…)
So, grab a hunk of cake (please just the cake not Cookie), a mug of Arbuckles and wish these fabulous authors and Prairie Rose all the best and smooth trails!! And Tex a big ol’ welcome to the ranks of published author and here’s to many, many, many more for everyone at Prairie Rose!!
“A Christmas Miracle” by Phyliss Miranda
“Outlaw’s Kiss” by Cheryl Pierson
“A Husband for Christmas” by Sarah J. McNeal
“Peaches” by Kathleen Rice Adams
“A Gift For Rhoda” by Jacquie Rogers
“Her Christmas Wish” by Tracy Garrett
“Covenant” by Tanya Hanson
“Charlie’s Pie” by Livia J. Washburn
HUGE CONGRATS GALS!!!
“Get out from under yer bedroll ya ol’ coot and get the coffee brewin’!”
Sorry, folks we’ll just havta get along with what’s left in the pot. We’re tellin’ ghost stories round the campfire today and ol’ Cookie’s shiverin’ in his boots.
Wyoming has her share of ghouls, ghosts, legends and lore that’s for sure. And here at the foot of the Bighorns we’re carving pumpkins and stockin’ up on candy for the little gobblins who will be knockin’ on our doors this Halloween. So, it’s a good time to share about those haunting voices carried on the Wyoming winds and the bumps in the night that send our heads under our pillows.
Here in Sheridan there are tales of Miss Kate Arnold still keeping watch over her beloved Sheridan Inn. Miss Kate arrived in Sheridan in the early 1900s and worked and lived at the inn until her death in the 1960s. She loved the Inn so much, she requested her ashes to be buried there and it’s said they were buried the wall of her room. Miss Kate is joined in her haunts by the son-in-law of Buffalo Bill Cody who took his life at the Inn after a series of business and personal failings. There is some speculation, however, that he didn’t take his life, but it was taken from him. These are joined by many other tales from beyond from Sheridan to Buffalo and everywhere in between. Today, I’d like to visit the in between at Lake DeSmet.
Lake DeSmet is named for Father Pierre-Jean DeSmet a Jesuit missionary priest to the Indians in the 1800s. The lake is a beautiful, tranquil body of water attracting fishermen and tourists. Pioneers, however, reported horses and dogs wouldn’t go near the lake and strange noises echoed across the water at night. Hidden under this gem of blue water are legends and secrets best left undisturbed…but we’re going to disturb them.
The low moans of a heart breaking it’s said belong to a Crow warrior, Little Moon. His band was camped along the lake, when Little Moon asked his sweetheart, Star Dust, to meet him at the edge of the water once the others went to sleep. Little Moon arrived at the spot before Star Dust. While he waited a mist hung over the lake and in the mist was the face of a beautiful girl, more beautiful than any girl he had ever seen.The vision beckoned Little Moon with a smile.
Hypnotized by the water enchantress, Little Moon viciously pushed Star Dust aside when she arrived and tried to put her arms around him. He turned back to the face in the mist to see it gone.
Star Dust cast herself into the water when repulsed by her lover. The next morning Star Dust’s body was found drowned by the red bluff north of the lake. Her father demanded revenge against Little Moon. The men of the band bound Little Moon to the rock and left him there to watch for his mysterious maiden.
Now, when the wind moans over the lake it’s said to be the faithless lover caller; the howls of a disloyal sweetheart. His spirit destined to wander around the shore looking for his maiden.
Another legend is that of one of the first Indian bands to camp near the lake. They tried to use the water for drinking and cooking, but found it to be bitter. Nothing in the area explained why the water would be acrid, so they believed its bitterness to be due to the presence of an evil spirit.
That night, terrifying sounds echoed around them and suddenly the lake was infested by great hordes of sea gulls. Throughout the night they soared and cried and swarmed. At dawn the gulls disbanded en masse and disappeared.
But the worst was yet to come. After breakfast the champion swimmer among the tribe ran to the lake’s edge, gave a happy whoop and plunged into the water. As the others watched he turned and opened his mouth as if to scream, his eyes widened in horror and he was sucked below the surface. They circled the lake, not daring to enter the water, but after a time when all was lost, they grabbed their belongings and fled the lake in terror.
Local ranchers and early pioneers reported a monster appearing from the mist and rising above the waters.Smetty, because every water monster needs a truly terrifying name, is a legendary creature thought to dwell in the subterranean caverns of Lake DeSmet. These caverns are speculated to be a faraway outlet from the Pacific Ocean.
Those who have seen Smetty report a monster 30 to 40 feet long with bony ridges along the back. His head is said to resemble that of a horse and rises from the water in a swimming motion. Others report a large alligator like creature and still others compare Smetty to the legendary Nessie of Loch Ness fame.
One rancher, whose home was near the lake, rose early and went into the fields. He heard a strange noise coming from the lake and turned to see a huge sea serpent rise from the water. It stayed only a second and then disappeared. His description of Smetty approached more of a dinosaur than any other.
Does a monster lurk under the waters of the lake? And does a Crow warrior still wail for his lost love? Well, guess you’ll just have to pitch a tent by the water and find out for yourself. (I’d bring a fishing pole with ya cause chances are better of catchin’ a trout)
“Now get out here Cookie! For Pete’s sake, we can hear your teeth chatterin’ clear over by the fire! And ya still need to get that ol’ tub filled for bobbin’ for apples!”
Guess we shouldn’t ‘ave set up camp so close to the Lake DeSmet. MwahaMwahahahaha…**dissolves into choking**
This story is for those 18 or older! If you are not 18, please wait a few years and then come on back! Thanks for abiding by the campfire rules!
NOTE: I’d like thank all of those who have read Jake and Ellie’s story! And a special thank you to those who have commented here or on Facebook. It’s always scary to send your “kids” out into the world, and it’s such an encouragement when they’re accepted and even praised.
I have been asked if this story will be published. The answer is…Yes, even if I have to do it myself. While writing this Ellie and Jake revealed a lot more to their story, so I will be expanding the tale and publishing it. When this will take place, I don’t know. But I’ll give you the details when they’re available. Hope you’ll want to learn more about these two and get in on more of their adventure!
The latch clicked on the barn door reverberating like the report of a gun in the empty ranch yard. Ellie followed Jake’s directions to the letter after they parted ways at a ranch just outside Buffalo. The day she set foot on her ranch she let the hired men go with a promise they’d be hired again just as soon as she could. But before they left she enlisted their help taking the majority of the horses to the far pasture. Only Warrego remained in the barn.
Then she waited and waited some more. For five days she remained sequestered. Fearing for her sanity she rode to town one day to find the newspapers and gossip ablaze with the Wilcox Train Robbery. No one got the story right, because no one included the theft of one horse and she and Jake’s involvement. For the first few days they didn’t even report correctly the bandits responsible for the loss of $30,000 in bank notes, cash and various items. At last, they settled on members of the Wild Bunch, but still debated on Butch’s role. She heaved deep breaths to keep from losing her lunch when one paper reported a posse of over a hundred men chased the outlaws. Jake’s words haunted her, “A posse of a hundred men, huh? That’s a lot for any man to outrun.”
Afraid every feature on her face proclaimed her guilt, Ellie returned to the ranch to find Butch, Sundance and Etta taking up residence. Outlaws or no she’d enjoyed having company, but there were hidden motives in their visit. She couldn’t weed it out of any of them, but deep down her gut, as Jake would say, told her they were there to guard her as well as hide out from the law. Who’d expect the new wife of the old sheriff and former Widow Reed of harboring the Wild Bunch?
Early that morning a young rider barreled through the gate. He spoke to Sundance and rode away, soon after her three guests departed still talking about the virtue of heading to South America. She took Warrego for a ride and checked the rest of the horses, but a long lonely day stretched before her.
Lifting her gaze to a distant hillside, she used the flat of her hand to shield her eyes from the sun and search the rolling landscape. “Where are you, Jake?”
A horse and rider emerged over a hill and for a flicker Ellie believed by some miracle Jake heard her and made his way home. The rider galloped closer and her legs turned to lead her heart keeping cadence with the thundering hooves. Owen Cline. Her gaze ran across the green hills searching for help, but nothing stirred even the long prairie grass remained straight and motionless in the still hot air. A daughter shouldn’t need rescued from her father, but Ellie sensed a rescue was going to be in order and it looked like she’d be saving herself.
She hadn’t backed down to Owen Cline in twenty-six years and today wasn’t going to be the day she started. And hell if he’d receive a smile and a greeting, she braced her feet and rested her hands on her hips as he reined in the huge roan he favored within centimeters of her, his first volley of intimidation.
The gelding’s hooves stirred a film of fine red dust, but Ellie refused to sneeze or brush at her riding skirt or blouse. She’d wear the dust for a hundred years before she gave the ogre on the beasts back the satisfaction of flicking one speck from her person.
He remained seated high in the saddle, but doffed his hat exposing a balding head where thick silver waves once rooted. Cline’s mouth thinned in the half smile half sneer he wore when addressing someone he considered his inferior.
She tipped her head back to meet his gaze, but didn’t budge from the spot she claimed. “What do you want?”
He swung down from the saddle and stood over her attempting to crowd her and force her to move, but Ellie locked her stance. His eyes shown as dark as Jake’s but there was no goodness shining in their depths and certainly no love just cold dead stone.
“Did you really think you could leave me, and then steal from me?”
“Nothing here is yours. Not me and not Warrego. Now get off my land.”
“And who is going to usher me off? You, daughter? Your lover who’s clearly had enough of you? Or maybe those criminals who cleared out hours ago after I sent the message I was on my way?”
Ellie’s mind twisted with questions. Maybe the three outlaws hadn’t been protecting her. She shook her head. Jake and the others couldn’t have been pretending the whole time. Another thought burrowed in, but her father had bought men before.
Her confusion gave her father an edge and his hand gripped her arm in a vice of pain as he propelled her to the house. “Then there’s the end of that. Now we’re going to go into that shack you call a house and get you packed up. Then we’re going to ride to Montana where you will marry the man I’ve chosen for you and Warrego will sire a breed of cow horse we can all make a tidy sum on.”
She jerked her arm only to have his grip tighten. She sucked air between her teeth at the shot of pain almost taking her to her knees. But she forced her voice to hide the pain. “Marry?”
“Did you think I’d kill you like I had Jim killed? No, Elsbeth Cline, you’re still worth something and I found a man willing to pay the price.”
Her arm was freed, but he gave her back a shove pushing her into the door. “And don’t even think of running, I have men guarding all routes.”
He might have men stationed around the ranch, but he couldn’t keep an eye on her all the way to Montana. She just robbed a train for goodness sakes, surely she could think of a way to escape on the trail North, and even if they made it she’d never marry her father’s lackey of month. He’d be forced to kill her or let her go either way she’d be free.
She twisted the knob and opened the door to the cabin. “My name is Ellie Avery.”
He raised a beefy hand and she braced for the slap.
“I wouldn’t let that hand fall, lest ya want me to cut it off and feed it to ya.”
Ellie’s eyes snapped open and she squeezed them shut and opened them again to make sure the image of Jake sitting at the kitchen table a cup of coffee in one hand and a Colt in the other was real. Like he’d been there all along he rested back in the chair and took a huge draw of coffee.
“You kill me and my men will…”
“Turn over in their graves. I took care of them with a little help from some friends. I’ve been tracking y’all for days knowin’ eventually you’d hightail it here when ya thought yer daughter was alone. Never trust an outlaw, Pa.”
JAKE bit his tongue to keep from laughing at Ellie and Cline’s face. He set down the cup of coffee and lifted a leg onto the table relishing the only time Ellie would ever allow his boot to rest on her kitchen table. “This is my father-in-law ain’t it? Good thing I love Ellie like I do, cause it goes against my upbringin’ to marry down into a family like this.”
“Shut up, Pa.” He nodded toward his side. “Ellie get yer sweet backside over here by yer husband.”
Her eyes narrowed just long enough for him to see revenge in his near future, but damn this was fun. Ellie moved to stand beside him and he wrapped an arm around her waist tugging her into his side the gun in his other hand not moving a shake. “And Pa, take a chair while yer able.”
Ellie rested a hand on his shoulder choosing sides. “How long have you been here?”
He shifted settling Ellie on his lap. “Long enough to watch this bastard grab yer arm in a manner that might cost him his hand yet, and long enough to hear you claim my name.”
“Where have you been?”
He brushed a kiss on her neck. “Later darlin’, I’m gettin’ to know the in-laws.”
Cline’s eyes bulged in his red face. “I’ll have you arrested for horse thievery, both of you will swing from rope and I’ll pay to tie the knots around your necks.”
Jake released Ellie’s waist just long enough to fling the papers Sundance gave him before the robbery at the man he was itching to kill. “As fun as that all sounds, the State of Wyoming will be saving hemp. I know I was a sheriff for just a short time, but I don’t think Wyoming hangs a man for taking his horse off a train being robbed.”
“These are the papers…”
“Bill of sale to one Ben Kilpatrick, I believe the price was to set this all up so you could kidnap your daughter and get her up to Montana. You’ll see there Ben signed over ownership to Ellie, the price the look on your face right now. The woman with Ben that day was one Etta Place and the boy ya sent to announce your arrival today was hired by Butch Cassidy to tell ya he warned Kilpatrick not Longabaugh. Again, I must advise ya never to trust a man on the wrong side of the law.”
Ellie snatched the papers from her father’s hand. “These are what they passed along to you that morning?”
He gave a sharp nod. “That and information that the train car wouldn’t be guarded.”
A hand landed in a slap against his chest. “And you didn’t tell me?”
“Dammit, Ellie, you were so all fired into robbin’ a train I didn’t want to spoil it for ya.” Before she could explode in the way she was fixin’ to land into him Jake rushed on. “Plus we needed this asshole to believe his plan was succeedin’.”
“So it was all fake…And I was bait?”
If a look could melt a man Jake would be nothing but a puddle. “Can we focus on the problem before us, woman, and tear into each other later?”
She sat hard on his lap, and he choked on equal parts dread of the fight to come and pleasure that she parked her soft round behind on his lap not the chair next to him.
Jake turned all his focus on the bastard across from him. “So here’s how it’s all gonna end father-in-law. As much as I’d like to, I’m not gonna kill ya, cause your Ellie’s Pa, hard as that is to believe, and she’d hate me and worse herself if I did. But you’re gonna ride outta Wyoming, then you’re gonna pack up all your shit and head to the other side of the world. If some accident befalls my wife, or she succumbs to some mysterious ailment, I will track you down and kill you in the most painful way I know how. If I should die mysteriously, there are men ready to do the same. I’d advise you to pray to God everyday of your life that your daughter lives to the ripe old age of ninety-nine.”
Ellie pressed both of her palms on the table and leaned until she was almost nose to nose with the man who called himself her father though Jake couldn’t make out a resemblance at all. “Now get the hell out of our house and off our ranch.” Before he could blink she let loose a wad of spit hitting Owen Cline smack in the middle of his face.
“Shit, Ellie, ya really spit in face. Don’t know whether to feel disgust or pride, but pride is winning.”
Cline raised a hand, but Jake was faster bringing down the butt of his gun on the man’s other hand. The squeal of a pig was quieter. “Ya gotta learn to keep those hands to yourself. Now you can step into your saddle, or I can toss ya over it, but this reunion is over.” Jake tossed a hanky at the man’s face his stomach tossing at the wad of spit hanging from the man’s nose. “Get out!”
Jake had to give the man something he didn’t stumble over himself or run from the house. Instead he straightened and holding his broken hand in the other, he tossed each one a glare before turning on his heels and walking out the door.
Neither breathed until the thunder of hooves echoed a hasty retreat.
Ellie surprised him again, turning to the stove and dishing up a bowl of stew sitting it in front of him. “Do you think it’s really over?”
He shrugged and dug in, no use trying to figure out the fairer sex today. “Yep.”
She took the chair next to him instead of sitting across from him in the chair her father vacated. He wouldn’t be surprised to find that chair used as kindling in days to come. “He’s never given up this easy before.”
“Well this time he don’t have a choice. ‘Bout 10 miles up the road are a few men hired to see to it your Pa is packed up and shipped out.”
She nodded accepting his word. “So, we never really robbed a train?”
“Nope. Does it bother you?”
She sat back and closed her eyes as he watched her chest rise and fall in a great breath. She opened her eyes in slow measurements. “Not at all. These past days I’ve been walking on glass hoping it doesn’t break. Guess I wasn’t as cut out to be an outlaw as I thought. Are you staying?”
He smiled at the fifth change in direction she’d steered this conversation. “Not a force of nature that could move me. Now get yer sweet behind over here and give me a kiss.”
Her smile stretched her cheeks even as she pushed out of the chair and moved around the table. “I’ll let you get away with that one more time.”
She took her place back in his lap as her arms roped around his neck and she tugged his head down until their lips met. One taste and their kiss lit like fire touching kerosene. Jake kept it burning until she struggled against him needing air in her lungs. Grudgingly, he lifted his mouth from hers.
Ellie ran a cool palm over his cheek. “I missed you.”
He held her close. “Missed you, too.”
“You want me to tell ya or show ya?”
HOURS later, Ellie rested her head on Jake’s shoulder while she ran a hand over his chest in lazy circles. Evening was falling outside, but neither seemed inclined to get out of bed for food, water or anything else. She snuggled deeper into the warmth of his body thoroughly convinced the man missed her as much as she missed him.
“Why ninety-nine instead of one hundred?”
He combed his fingers through her hair. “What?”
“Why did you tell my father to pray I live to be ninety-nine instead of one hundred?”
He stopped running his fingers through her hair and draped his arm over her waist pulling her close. His chest rumbled in a deep chuckle.
“Well it’s like this, Ellie mine, I don’t figure on livin’ past one hunderd, and you’re a year younger than me. I figure your grief at my loss will be so great ya won’t last much longer after I’m gone.”
She smiled against his chest. “I think you’re correct, Jake Avery.”
He shifted sitting up against the headboard and bringing her with him. “Did you just agree with me, Ellie Avery?”
“Seems as though I have.”
“Well slather me in molasses and post me to an anthill, we might just make it another fifty years or so.”
Lifting the rough cotton sheet over her chest she forced a serious look. “I have a business proposal for you.”
His forehead wrinkled in dread. “Oh lord, why do I fear for the Bank of Sheridan?”
She poked his chest with a forefinger. “No, we are both officially retired from the outlaw life. I want you to marry me proper, we’ve long since passed standing in front of a preacher, but I’d like to see it legal in front of a Judge.”
“I have a feelin’ hookin’ my star to your wagon is gonna make train robbin’ look like tea on Sunday.”
“So you agree?”
“Haven’t denied you anything yet, don’t see the point in startin’ now. I’d be proud to see you as my wife legal and proper, but it won’t change how I feel about you.”
“And how is that?”
“Ya want me to show you or tell ya?”
She pressed against him her heart no longer empty but full and overflowing. “Both.”
Copyright @ 2013, by Kirsten Lynn (This is an original work of Kirsten Lynn any attempt to reprint part or all of this work is strictly prohibited)
This story is for those 18 or older! If you are not 18, please wait a few years and then come on back! Thanks for abiding by the campfire rules!
Keep readin’ after the story for a look at the real Wilcox Train Robbery!!
Whiskey shoved Ellie’s hand with his nose a not so subtle reminder her attention should be on him not staring at Jake deep in conversation with the four members of the Wild Bunch on this side of a small wooden bridge just past milepost number 609 near Wilcox Station. George Currie and Kid Curry stood vigil on the other side after placing dynamite under the bridge’s trestle. The juices in her stomach churned and threatened to eat through her insides at what she’d set into motion weeks ago when she strode into Jake’s office and requested his help.
The men stood just far enough away their voices drowned in the rain and in the pre-dawn light they stood as shadows indistinguishable except for one. Jake’s form angled her way before one of his forefingers jutted at the ground in what she recognized as his way of getting a point across in heated discussion and instructions.
She pulled her Stetson down to stave off the rain and turned up the collar of her slicker. Her hand received another impatient nudge. Longabaugh brought Whiskey down with the gang, but not a mount for her. She’d turned to question the oversight when they met the outlaws at a ranch friendly to the Wild Bunch in between Cheyenne and Medicine Bow. Jake informed her of his plan to ride the Brumby once they’d procured the animal. The big buckskin before her now was as demanding as the man who rode him. Her mouth curved in remembering just how demanding that man could be. They might have turned in early their nights in Cheyenne, but they had been short nights once she joined him on his bedroll.
Her gaze narrowed in on the group of shadows as the shadow she now recognized as Longabaugh handed something to Jake. Whatever it was Jake slipped it under his slicker, tipped his hat and started back to her. As he neared, he lifted his gaze to meet hers and a slow smile spread across his face. The familiar ache she felt anytime he was near reached bone deep.
Making a show of twisting and stretching his back he penned her between his arms and took Whiskey’s reins. “Don’t know ‘bout you Ellie darlin’, but next time there’s a choice between a hardwood floor and a feather bed I’m choosin’ the bed.”
Trapped between Jake’s solid chest and Whiskey’s nose, Ellie twisted between his arms and angled her neck so she met Jake’s gaze. A smile curved her mouth despite the serious business before them. After the first night without words they chose the bedroll the other nights, too. “My mattress was perfect. I slept like the dead.”
“Yeah, and I can’t say I minded bein’ your mattress either.”
This man loved her. Was willing to do anything for her, and she was risking his life in a scheme rife with circumstances leading to their death. A shiver shook her shoulder.
“No. What time is it?”
“’Bout ten after two. Won’t be long now.”
Ten after two o’clock on June 2, 1899, she’d been twenty-six for two hours. Instead, of the grand parties her mother used to throw for her birthday or even the special dinner in Sheridan Jim used to treat her to, she was standing in the rain in between Jake’s arms waiting to rob a train. Maybe she was the crazy widow he used to call her, she preferred this birthday to any other.
“What ya thinkin’?”
“Do you forgive me?”
He shifted bringing her closer into his chest and out of the rain. She inhaled the sweet scent of land being washed clean. “For this? Hell yeah, Ellie. You need this and I love you so I’m gonna help ya get it. And don’t go thinkin’ you’re gettin’ rid of me tonight. We’ve still got a trail or two to follow.”
Shoving morose thoughts aside, Ellie patted the side of his slicker where he tucked whatever the Sundance Kid slipped him. She nodded toward the group of men now a few feet closer. “What did he give you?”
“I’ll tell ya later, ya meddlin’ woman.” He dropped a kiss on her lips then lifted his arms over her allowing her escape.
She didn’t hesitate. “With everything.”
Jake secured a white piece of material around the lower half of his face creating a mask and handed one to her. When she took the material he gripped her hand. “Stay close to me and do what I say when I say it. Don’t worry ‘bout what Sundance and the boys are up to you just keep your eyes on me.”
She squeezed his hand and gave a quick nod. Taking her hand back she fixed her mask to match Jake’s and the others. The smile forming at the realization the material was nothing more than a linen napkin faltered when she faced Jake. “If my father has many guards on Warrego, please don’t risk your life.”
“A little late for that, Ellie. Just concentrate on the job.”
“And on you?”
A train whistle screamed a shrill echo. There would be no turning back now.
“Thank you.” It was a small thing to say, but she put her heart and soul behind it.
“Don’t thank me, yet, darlin’. We still need to get your damn horse.”
Before she could snipe at him for being flip the high pitched squeal of iron meeting iron stopped her breath as two lights flashed from the other side of the bridge a warning the engineer would hopefully see as the bridge being washed out. In two long strides, Longabaugh, Logan, Carver, and Kilpatrick overtook her and Jake shielding them from view.
No one moved or it seemed breathed. Even the horses remained silent. A small flare signaled the dynamite under the trestle being ignited, but still the first locomotive of the Union Pacific Overland Flyer No. 1 stayed motionless. Longabaugh cursed as tension infiltrated the ranks. She almost cried when a screech pierced the silence and section one of the Flyer chugged forward. The last car of the section barely crossed the bridge when an explosion cut the night and illuminated Jake’s face. He gave a short nod and they fell into step behind the four outlaws. The click of rifles and pistols being cocked echoed with the slap of boots on mud.
Ellie’s mouth dropped in astonishment at the sight of the bridge; the second section of the Flyer was effectively cut off from the first and would offer no assistance. The first section trudged forward until it stopped and the passenger cars unhitched. None of the group wanted to molest the passengers it was the mail, express, and one stock car that held their interest.
Again the train trudged forward until her view was filled with shining wet black iron. Jake grabbed her hand and tugged her into the darkness and down the length of the engine as behind them the others issued orders for the clerks of the mail car to open up. Another dynamite blast sent her head sinking into the collar of her duster.
“Why?” She whispered.
“Guess the clerks didn’t open up, so the boys unlocked the door.” Jake whispered back.
They moved along the side of the train out of site, all attention focused on the six outlaws shouting orders to the engineer, fireman, and mail clerks. They reached the stock car and Jake pounded on a wood slat with the butt of his rifle. “Open up!”
Silence. Ellie was so sick of silence her fist connected with the wood before the butt of Jake’s rifle could again.
She emptied her lungs of air and frustration. “Open the hell up! That’s my damn horse!”
Another explosion shook the train. “Holy hell, what are they doin’? Open this goddamn door!” Jake bellowed and pulled out a stick of dynamite.
“We don’t need more…” Ellie swallowed her chastisement as wood sliding over metal drew their attention and the car door opened. A young man no older than fourteen stood before them his eyes so large the whites were the only part showing. In the shadows the frantic whinnies and cries of a frightened horse had her preparing to jump up into the car, but a large hand wrapped around her arm and held her steady.
“How many men in there?”
The boy shook and Ellie couldn’t blame him at the cold steel of Jake’s voice. She turned to make sure it was still her lover with her and not some monster from a child’s nightmare.
“Is there gear?”
“Saddle ‘im up.”
The boy flew back into the car to do his bidding.
JAKE hopped into the car and took a quick inventory confirming what the boy said and what he’d already learned from Kilpatrick. He lifted Ellie up after him. Their eyes adjusted to the dark just as the boy lit a lantern and heaved a saddle on Warrego’s back.
He stood watch as Ellie moved toward the half-wild animal cooing soft words. From what he could see, Jim had good taste in horseflesh. The muscled Brumby was stockier than Whiskey and if Jake didn’t miss his guess, in the lantern light, he would prove to be a blue dun in color. But right now Warrego wasn’t happy to be stuck in a box while those fools blasted the train to hell and Jake couldn’t blame him.
Narrowing his gaze he observed Ellie with the horse and the truth hit him brighter than the lantern cut through the dark train car. “Jim didn’t catch this horse, did he?”
Her head shook, but she didn’t turn from Warrego. “I didn’t say he did. I said he chased him over Australia. I caught him.”
A surge of insult and pride pounded through his blood. “Shit, ya coulda told me when I was spoutin’ off about handlin’ the wild horse. You ride him out.”
Jake let out a whistle and Whiskey appeared out of hiding. “You’re gonna have to jump him out.”
She stepped into the saddle like she was born to ride the Australian horse. “I can do it.”
“Didn’t doubt it.”
Ellie’s gaze traveled over the car. “There’s really no guards?”
The boy shook his head in an unnecessary answer.
“Count the stars lucky, Ellie, and we’ll worry ‘bout it later. Now let’s get to movin’.”
He stepped across Whiskey’s back and reined him over giving a low whistle when Ellie and Warrego flew through the open door of the train car. Just as the Brumby’s hooves touched the ground another blast came from the express car. The ground shifted as the sides and roof of the express car blew in every direction.
“Damn me to hell! Let’s get outta here before they blow us all sky high!”
“Yup, unless ya want your share of the loot. They don’t need us muckin’ up their escape any more than we need the engineer givin’ our description to a posse.”
Jake shoved down the part of him that felt lower than snail slime at tucking tail and running before the job was done. He blustered at them for a good hour arguing over their decision to keep him and Ellie hidden from view and completely out of any stealing, but the horse. Sundance turned a deaf ear saying he and Butch wanted it this way…a wedding present he’d said along with the papers he’d handed over. Not that their motives were wholly altruistic, they expected the Union Pacific to pay them well for their benevolence.
Jake reined Whiskey North motioning for Ellie to do the same. They galloped away from the destroyed Union Flyer Number 1 both swiping the linens from their necks and letting them flop to the mud. The rain slapped him in the face cooling his skin and keeping them hidden in a gray dawn as they raced toward the first ranch on the relay up to Sheridan.
One more job to see through and then he’d toss his old life away just like that old white rag.
Copyright @ 2013, by Kirsten Lynn (This is an original work of Kirsten Lynn any attempt to reprint part or all of this work is strictly prohibited)
WHOO-EEE folks Jake and Ellie’s story is still goin’, but I wanted to enlighten y’all a bit about the true story of the Wilcox Train Robbery! What? Y’all thought for sure Ellie and her desire to seek revenge on her father and steal a horse was the reason behind all this hullabaloo? Well, you were wrong my friends. But don’t fret the real story is almost as good as mine.
In the pre-dawn hours of June 2, 1899, the Union Pacific Overland Flyer No. 1 was flagged down by two men with lanterns near milepost No. 609. The engineer, Jones, thought the wooden bridge might have washed out in the rain. The Flyer was divided into two sections each pulled by its own engine. Jones brought the first section to a screeching halt.
Two men, wearing masks, boarded the engine and ordered Jones and his fireman Dietrick to pull forward to the bridge and stop. The robbers had already planted dynamite under the trestle of the bridge and it was ignited. They ordered Jones to pull up again and “be quick about it.” Jones moved too slowly and one of the outlaws clubbed him with a gun butt.
The train just cleared the bridge when an explosion cut through the pre-dawn preventing the second section from following. The outlaws demanded Jones stop the train again. This time they disconnected the passenger cars since their interests lay in the mail and express cars. Jones and Dietrick then pulled the train forward where four more outlaws waited. The trainmen were herded to the mail car where clerks Robert Lawson and Burt Bruce were ordered to open up. There wasn’t an immediate response, so the outlaws blew open the door with more dynamite.
The mail car proved to be a disappointment, so the outlaws moved on to the express car and demanded E.C. Woodcock to open the door. Woodcock didn’t comply, and again the robbers resorted to dynamite. Dazed, Woodcock stumbled from the car and couldn’t supply the outlaws with the combination to the Pacific Express Co. safe. I bet you can guess what happened next…Yep, more dynamite. This time the thieves got carried away and not only blew open the safe, but succeeded in blowing out the sides and roof of the car.
Almost two hours after the robbery started, the six robbers gathered unsigned bank notes, cash, 19 scarf pins, 29 gold-plated cuff button pairs and four Elgin watches, all totaled an estimate of $30,000 was taken. However, in 1904 the Union Pacific claimed it lost more than $50,000, a portion of that in gold. The witnesses claimed the bandits escaped to the North toward the Hole-in-the-Wall.
Engineer Jones chugged his damaged train 12 miles to Medicine Bow where he sent a telegram reporting the robbery. No. 4, a specially outfitted train kept ready in Laramie containing cars for horses, equipment, food and men, sped to the scene. The posse train arrived at 9:00a.m. The posse included men from the Union Pacific’s own detective force, Burlington Railroad forces, and the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Governor DeForst Richards even dispatched Company C of the state militia. All told a posse of 100 men chased the outlaws.
While given many leads on possible train robbers the professionals focused on the six men of the Wild Bunch who played roles in my story. Butch, while believed to be the mastermind, denied taking part in the robbery for the reason he told Jake and Ellie. This being that due to the terms of his release from the penitentiary he wouldn’t go back on his word to never participate in any criminal activity within Wyoming’s borders. Posse members noticed an extra set of hoof prints joining the fleeing bandits; these were believed to belong to Butch’s horse.
In typical Wild Bunch fashion, relay points were set up on the escape route with many local ranchers lending a place to stay and a fresh horse as they bandits made their way North. The posse and Pinkertons remained weeks behind the criminals for at least a year before Wilcox money started showing up in Cripple Creek, Colorado.
February 28, 1900, Pinkertons tracked the money to the Lee farm in Dodson, home of Lonnie Logan’s aunt and uncle. Lonnie tried to escape and was shot.
George Currie was killed by Sheriff Jesse Tyler near Moab, Utah, April 1900. Tyler was later killed under suspicious circumstances. Many believed Harvey Logan avenged the death of his mentor.
Will Carver was killed in Sonora, Texas, April 2, 1901. He was resisting arrest for the murder of a pig farmer.
Harry Longabaugh, Etta Place and Robert LeRoy Parker headed for Argentina. It is believed Longabaugh and Parker died in a shootout in Bolivia, 1908.
Harvey Logan and Ben Kilpatrick were caught separately and jailed for passing stolen bank notes from a 1901 train robbery in Montana. Harvery was killed by a posse after escaping from prison. Kilpatrick was released from prison in 1911 and was shot holding up a train in Sanderson, Texas.
What happened to Jake and Ellie? Well you’ll just have to wait ‘til next week to find out.
SOURCES FOR THIS ARTICLE:
This story is for those 18 or older! If you are not 18, please wait a few years and then come on back! Thanks for abiding by the campfire rules!
“I prefer ridin’ Whiskey, but leastways the train wasn’t robbed.”
Jake turned the key in the hotel room doorknob and angled his head to flash Ellie a wink and broad smile, but both died a quick death at her taunt mouth and narrowed eyes. Night or day, the woman hadn’t denied him her body and more than a few times sought him out for some lovin’. Hell, she’d even saddled up and headed to that field of wildflowers giving him his dream come true. In those moments, she was his Ellie giving all she had and then some. She laughed and talked, shared her dreams for the future and nightmares haunting her present. Then like a Wyoming spring can turn to winter in the whip of a bull’s tale she’d turn into the woman who glared at him now…the Widow Reed.
“Are you going to open the door or just stand there making inappropriate statements at my expense?”
He twisted the knob and let the door swing open then stood back letting her glide by like a queen entering her private chambers. Snagging their two carpet bags he followed behind the ever dutiful valet. He kicked the door with his boot heel and let it shut with a loud thud. Tossing the bags by the bed he swiped his hat from his head. By habit he scanned the room looking for the quickest exit. It wasn’t the grandest room in Cheyenne, but it wasn’t the worst either. He’d stayed in a few of those and this room with its brass bed, oak armoire and separate water closet stood head and shoulders above any hovel he’d frequented. Hell, there were even throw rugs on what appeared to be a clean hardwood floor.
What the room didn’t have was air not with Ellie knocking the wind right out of him. Maneuvering around her as her own gaze took in their surroundings; Jake opened the small window and sucked in a lung full of air and dust. He choked out the dust and wiped the sweat forming on his brow with the back of his arm.
“You’re just a real joy to be ‘round these days.”
“You weren’t complaining about my company last night.”
“Maybe ‘cause you weren’t wearin’ a stick up your ass.”
Her gaze shifted to the heavy porcelain pitcher and wash basin and for a second Jake prepared to dodge a flying object. “I told you I loved you, Jake…again I told you, and you just laid there staring at me like I grew long ears and a tail. You said it’d be a long time before you got your fill of me. So excuse me if I can’t laugh and be gay, I just found out I’m a woman a man can get his fill of in two weeks.”
His heart screamed for him to deny her accusation as his body bellowed for him to follow any denial by tossing her on the big brass bed and showing her just how deep she flowed through his system. He forced his shoulders not to sag as he released a deep breath of frustration. It was better this way. He couldn’t stay and the more he bedded her the harder it’d be to walk away.
She sunk onto the side of the bed. “Silence. An answer I’m getting accustomed to.”
Before he could get his tongue untied and working she sprung up and glided over to the mirror above the oak dresser. “Well, let’s get this over with. I suppose we better get out on the town and start making inquiries about horseflesh. Smile and laugh…act like we’re both in love.”
Jake fisted his hand around his hat brim and slapped his leg with the offending head covering before slamming it on his head. “Goddammit, Ellie, I never promised a damn thing but what I’m doin’.”
She smoothed back a strand of hair a victim to their train ride and set her peacock feathered hat at a pert angle. That she wore the same dress she had when she came into his office with this ridiculous notion twisted his heart in reminder of all the joy he would have missed if she hadn’t. Her gaze met his in the mirror sending a slow burn through his system from those whiskey eyes.
“You’re an honorable man, Jake Avery, much more than you give yourself credit for. You’ve lived up to your end of the bargain and then some. I just wish you could have stayed with the original plan to only steal Warrego and not my heart, too.”
She flashed a smile that was as false as his protests. “Let’s go.”
Rolling the tension from his shoulders, he opened the door and stepped aside letting her float by before letting it go with another slam behind them. As they made their way down the narrow staircase he held her elbow to keep her steady over the wrinkles in the red carpet runner. She tried to shake him off, but he held firm.
When they stepped onto the lobby floor, he brushed a kiss behind her ear and smiled at the small shiver of her shoulders. “Happy couple, remember?”
In a flash she pivoted and planted a kiss square on his lips. “Of course.”
She smiled and walked through the front door leaving him stuck to the floor. He caught the desk clerk’s gaze cut from Ellie’s back to Jake still paralyzed in the center of the room. The man’s mouth hung open like a barn door. That’s when Jake realized his bottom lip was dragging on the floor. He rolled it up before going after Ellie. Damn woman! It was going to be a boring life without her.
Jake glared at the black ceiling his arms folded behind his head for a pillow. He’d watched the textured paint above him shift from white, to silver in the moonlight and finally pitch. They’d stumbled back into the room exhausted after a day of pretending nothing was wrong and only strawberries and cream awaited them in future years. Choosing to hit the hay early instead of seeing what Cheyenne offered for night life, he’d spread out his bedroll on the floor and ignored the moisture in Ellie’s eyes when she came out of the water closet to find the big feather bed all hers. He’d been memorizing the ceiling ever since and knew she had too by the deep breaths and tossing and turning going in the bed.
The air hung heavy around him. For early June in Wyoming it was a warm night, but he covered the lower half of his body anyway. Not that she hadn’t seen everything he owned, but somehow it felt they’d reverted back to Jake Avery and the Widow Reed instead of Jake and Ellie Avery. The bed creaked followed by a heavy sigh.
“Did our time together mean so little to you?”
He kept his gaze in the blackness. “If you believe that Ellie, ya haven’t been payin’ attention when I’m inside you.”
It was as close as he was going to come to telling her how much lying here on their last nights together was killing him. How riding away from her was going to do him in for sure. The rustle of sheets and squeak of the bed told him she was shifting around. He settled content he’d eased her mind and she’d be asleep soon. A warm body tucked into his side, her head on one of his arms. Hell, she was bare-assed naked and her hand was headed south. For being parochial in her loving for so long it hadn’t taken her long to come round to his kind of thinkin’.
He slammed his hand over hers before she reached his hard cock and could feel how much he wanted her. “Ellie, what the hell are ya doin’?”
“Just tell me once. I’ve never heard it before…even if it’s a lie.”
He rolled until he was on top of her resting between her legs. Before his brain could start talking, he slid deep into her soft folds and gritted his teeth against the sweetest feeling this side of heaven. Ellie arched her neck and body to take more of him as her legs locked around him to draw him closer and a slow moan escaped his lungs.
Framing her face between his hands he forced her gaze to meet his and waited until their eyes adjusted to the darkness and he was sure she could see the truth in every line of his face.
“Ellie Avery, I love you and that ain’t no lie…not even close. Those are the truest words I’ve ever spoken in my life. Lord, I want ya all the time and love ya more with each heartbeat.”
He ran the pad of his thumbs over her high cheekbones erasing the hot tears leaking from her eyes as he rocked in and out of her body. “Cause I have nothin’ to offer ya, sweetheart.”
Her lips parted, but Jake couldn’t take anymore whys right then. “Shhh. Leave it for now.”
He covered her mouth with his ensuring her silence. But what she couldn’t voice her body spoke loud and clear. Her inner muscles worked him as she pressed her body closer to his and kept her arms and legs wrapped securely around him. She wasn’t letting go. When she shuddered around him and breathed his name into his ear Jake let go of his release moaning her name against her shoulder. Still she held on tight, and he let her content to sink into her warmth.
“If you leave me, Jake Avery, I’ll hunt you down and I’ll be more ruthless than a posse of a hundred men. And if it bothers you that I have a ranch then I’ll walk away from it and we’ll live in a tent, or just out on the prairie somewhere…anywhere…”
He laughed and tried to roll away, but her legs cinched tighter. “Lord, woman, I’m not walking away tonight.” He gave a playful slap to her hip. “Let go, darlin’.”
When her arms and legs unlocked he shifted to his back, but tucked her into his side. “A posse of a hundred men, huh? That’s a lot for any man to outrun.”
He felt her mouth curve against his chest. “And I’d do it, too.”
“Oh, I don’t doubt ya for a second.” He scrubbed a hand down his face as he drew circles on her back with the other. “Bet that Australian horse is a fast one.”
He held back a chuckle at the drawl she tried to mimic.
“More silence.” She whispered.
She lifted her head and rested her chin on the hand she placed over his heart. With a forefinger he traced her jaw and tucked a wayward strand of hair behind her ear. “I’ll see ya part way back to Sheridan, Ellie, then I have to leave you for a time. But I’ll come back. Do ya trust me?”
He narrowed his eyes. “No questions?”
“No. If I needed to know you’d tell me. You’ve involved me in every step of this.”
And that’s why he wasn’t going to involve her in the step he’d have to take after the robbery. “Lord, I really do love you.”
She twisted her fingers in his chest hair until his toes curled. “Could you just say it one more time? You have to admit you have some catching up to do.”
He drew her on top of him. “How about I show ya?”
“That works, too.”
Copyright @ 2013, by Kirsten Lynn (This is an original work of Kirsten Lynn any attempt to reprint part or all of this work is strictly prohibited)
What a sour end to a perfectly good dream. Ellie arranged the bouquet of yellow wildflowers in a Mason canning jar half full of water. Staging it in the center of a yellow and white checked tablecloth, she inhaled a deep breath of air. Fresh bread and wildflowers, both discarded for happier pursuits the night before now set to rights. Clouds draped the house in darkness, but the sun broke through an hour after outlaws stopped wandering in and out of her kitchen cleaning the air and her mind.
Once Jake settled into the chair next to her earlier that morning the men seemed to emerge from the walls. “Flatnose” George Currie, Harvey Logan alias Kid Curry, Harvey’s brother Lonnie, Will Carver, and Ben Kilpatrick alias the Tall Texan, and of course the Sundance Kid, each one stepping right off the page of their dodger. Jake hadn’t even blinked. She blinked about a thousand times as the reality of who their guests were and what they did for a living fell like bricks and penetrated her thick head. None of the offended her and she hadn’t decided against retrieving Warrego, but a heavy stone settled in her belly when she’d heard Jake discussing plans with the others. When asked about his intentions after the robbery, his gaze never met hers and he shrugged. No mention of coming back to the ranch.
Maybe her father was right; she’d been born without a true woman’s heart or mind. If she had she’d give up pursuing vengeance against her father and focus on building a life with the man she loved. She admitted her love freely to her own heart, but though tempted many times during the night to whisper her heart to Jake as he slept or shout out his claim of her love as he claimed her body the vow wouldn’t leave her throat. Part because his face drained of all natural color when she almost let it slip the first time, and part because asking a man to go back to a life of crime after clawing his way to respectability mad any avowal of love hypocritical…in her unconventional female brain at least.
“The boys sure picked a helluva mornin’ to talk business. Hope their timings better when holdin’ up the Flyer.”
Ellie’s heart stopped for a beat and she grasped one of the arms wrapping around her waist as Jake hauled her back into his chest and touched his mouth to the space where her hairline met her neck. The man was a fast learner when it came to where touch her to bring the most pleasure. He was also a master at when he could sneak up on her and rob her of a year of life.
“Yes, it was an unwelcome surprise to meet with Mr. Longabaugh on my way back to the house from the privy. I’m just thankful I was dressed and not in my nightclothes.”
“Especially, since you weren’t wearin’ any clothes last night”
His lips wondered over her neck and up to her ears. A low chuckle rumbled through his chest and sent the warmth of memories spreading through her just like when they’d shared a smile over their coffee cups, a spark of campfire on a dark plain. “And Mr. Longabaugh? Damn, Ellie, I don’t think Harry’s been called Mister ‘cept when he’s got a .45 pointed at someone’s nose. But ya understood the plan?”
Not wanting to get into the details of an action sure to alter their course, she snuggled back until he groaned at her backside snug against his groin. “You have a plan for the day, Mr. Avery?”
His hold on her tightened and she felt his body’s response to her teasing. “Sure do. I plan on us takin’ a little ride to where there’s a field of those yellow flowers ya favor, strip ya down and love on ya right there on a bed of wildflowers with only sunlight to cover us.”
She reached back and fisted a hunk of denim at his thigh. “Yes. Let’s go.”
He nipped an earlobe and her grip tightened. “Not ‘til ya stop sassin’ and tell me ya understand the plan, and ya know damn well what plan I’m talking about.”
In the guise of arranging flowers she released his denims and broke from Jake’s embrace using the table as a barricade. She plucked at petals and twisted the heavy glass jar one way then the other.
“I understood everything just fine. I understand you and I will go on a horse buying venture to Cheyenne in two days. I understand while down there the happy couple is to see and be seen by many and make our intentions of purchasing a horse known. I understand we slip out of Cheyenne, meet up with the others at Wilcox Station and voila, I’ll have my damn horse and they’ll have a safe full of bank notes to roll around in. I understand where all the horse relay farms and ranches will be along the escape route, who pairs off with whom and where the gang will head and where I will be.”
She lifted her gaze to meet his. He’d rested his backside against the German silver butler sink and stretched out his long legs in front of him one ankle resting over the other. The arms holding her seconds before were now crossed over his chest. She used to read this pose as his I’m bored by the crazy widow stance, but she’d been schooled in his ways, too. This was his in about two seconds I’m going to strike and either love on you til you can’t breathe or shake the rafters in anger. She’d embrace it if it was the first, but feared she’d put too thick a coat of anger and sarcasm in her speech and was racing toward the second.
Crossing her arms over her chest and planting her boots in the floorboards in a wide stance she arched a brow. “There’s one aspect I do not understand.”
He pushed off from the sink. “That bein’?”
“Where will you be when the dust settles?”
Silence answered her.
THIS STORY IS FOR 18 AND OLDER!! If you are not 18, please wait a few years and then come on back! Thanks for abiding by the campfire rules!
A stray beam of sunlight caught a point of metal on the star tossed on the sheriff’s desk. The bright light flickered then died in a flash. “Just like my time as sheriff.” Jake mumbled. He scrawled his name to the bottom of a letter explaining as best he could why he could no longer serve as sheriff without mentioning his intention to ride with the Wild Bunch and rob a train.
He dropped the fountain pen into the black ink bottle and settled back in his chair. Snatching up the star and holding it between his thumb and forefinger, he examined all points. The life of a lawman had fit him like a size 6 hat on a size 8 head. Sure, he griped about Ellie and her wild emergencies, but if he looked too far into the pond he’d see those were the only times he hadn’t hated walking through the office door.
Anchoring the letter to the desk with the star, Jake rested a hand on each knee his gaze fixed on the combination.
“That sure is a pretty tune.”
Jake pushed up from the chair and straightened a few papers that didn’t need straightened avoiding Stu’s eager gaze. “What?”
“Yer always whistlin’ that tune when yer mind is wonderin’, or after ya talk to the widow Reed. What is it?”
His brows tugged together as flashes of his Ma hanging up wash belonging to other families blinked like pictures in a stereoscope. “Greensleeves.” He swallowed back the memories. “That’s what my Ma called it.”
Jake cleared his throat to tell the boy he didn’t know what the hell greensleeves were when the direction of Stu’s gaze sent his own to the star and letter. “I’m resignin’.”
“Ya sure didn’t last long.”
Jake opened his mouth to unleash a cyclone of curses, but the boy disappeared out the door before he could get enough air in his lungs to sustain the furry. The boy made loco weed look sane. Rubbing the back of his neck with one hand he mumbled the torrent Stu avoided just so it wouldn’t be wasted. The squawk of wood against wood as he pushed the chair in announced his departure. He locked up the office for the last time holding steady for a bit after the click of the lock. He didn’t know what he expected to feel, but after a few seconds of feeling nothing he headed toward the mayor’s office eager to turn Whiskey back to home.
He slapped his knee with his hat. Ellie’s ranch…home? Had a nice ring to it. But he’d have to walk careful across this field of rattlesnakes. A woman down in New Mexico taught him the hard lesson; just because a woman shares her bed with a man doesn’t mean she wants him at her breakfast table the next morning. Ellie never mentioned wanting him, just her horse and to ease her needs. The sun warmed his back as a chill danced up his spine. A woman like her didn’t offer to let a former outlaw warm his boots by her fire for a lifetime. The haunting notes of his mother’s song drifted with the dust kicked up by the men and women drifting down the streets of Sheridan. Jake nodded to the men and doffed his hat to the ladies while vowing to take what Ellie offered for as long as she offered it. Hell they’d probably be shot trying to get her goddamned horse.
A cool breeze sent the curtains over the kitchen window fluttering. Ellie cut a glance out the window to the empty ranch yard. The hired men accepted her marriage to Jake without so much as a hitched brow. It didn’t surprise her, it hadn’t taken her long to learn here in Wyoming a man’s business was his alone and anyone else could kindly keep their nose out of it. Today they’d gone about their chores like nothing changed but how tall the grass stood.
Leaning forward and pulling back one panel of white eyelet curtain, Ellie squinted following the endless sky. Not a cloud marred the beauty of green hills touching blue sky and neither did a rider blemish the scene. She turned back to punishing the bread dough she kneaded to the point of separating the ingredients to their original state.
“Well, this is just a fine flock of geese.” She pounded her fist into the soft lump of dough forming a cloud of flour. Plopping the heap into a bread pan she slammed the pan on the iron stove just for the pleasure of pounding something and covered it with a dishtowel to rise.
“What kind of man offers up the pleasures of the flesh and then disappears before the rooster even knows he’s supposed to crow?” She spoke to the empty spot where he’d spread his bedroll the previous night. Nothing remained of Jake Avery except for the memories of his breath on her neck and the sound of Greensleeves being whistled as he settled in for the night.
She cocked her head to the open window. Greensleeves. It wasn’t her memory. The song was carried in on a breeze. Whipping off her apron, she smoothed back her hair and cursed herself for caring if he thought she looked pretty. What was it about Jake Avery that had her stuffing her figure into a dress and fixing her hair in anything but a braid down her back? Either he was a disease meant to kill her slowly or the cure for an empty, lonely heart.
Opening the door with a yank she dragged Jake inside, his one hand still clutching the doorknob. He righted himself and his mouth curved in a grin crinkling the corners of his eyes before he tossed her a wink.
She took his measure and before she melted jabbed a finger at his chest. “Where have you been?”
“Now, Ellie, you’re a natural at this playactin’. That there sounded just like a naggin’ wife.”
“Jacob Avery, if you knew how I felt when I walked out here this morning and found you and all your things gone…” She bit her bottom lip refusing to let a tear fall. Tears were weak.
His gaze ambled over her from head to toe, but in such a slow manner it was like he was memorizing every stitch of the sage green dress she wore.
“My gear is stuffed behind the big chair in the living room, sweetheart. And in that dress, you remind a man just why he rode into town before sunup to resign and go back to a life of crime.”
The hand he’d had behind his back stretched before her in offering and no amount of strength could hold back the hot tears that rolled down her cheeks. She stared at the bouquet of wildflowers wrapped in Jake’s sun-bronzed hand.
“They looked bright and sassy standin’ out in a field of green. Made me think of you.”
“Ya don’t like yellow?”
The bouquets started to move away and she latched onto his wrist holding him steady.
She lifted her gaze to meet his and her smile stretched her cheeks. “I love yellow. It’s my favorite.”
All the pink bouquets of the past disappeared in a blur of yellow daisies and Jake’s face. Ellie released his wrist and pressed into his solid form her arms cinching around his waist.
With his free arm he returned her embrace and squeezed her close. “Ya just don’t make sense, woman. But damned if I don’t kinda like it.”
Ellie stepped from him and turned her back to him. “You can undress me.”
She looked over her shoulder. “Don’t talk. I want this too much for us to ruin.”
JAKE hooked his hat and tossed the flowers in a heap on the table. “Ellie Reed, for once you’re as clear as mountain water.”
Her low chuckle hit him right below the gun belt and Jake took his position behind her. He squeezed his hands into fists to keep them from shaking and brushed a kiss along the hairline exposed by the updo she’d fashioned her hair into. She leaned into him as her hand shot back and fisted a hunk of denim at his thigh. Taking that to mean she kinda enjoyed his mouth there, he put it back against that spot and then trailed kisses down her neck and farther down to the sensitive area between her shoulder blades popping buttons open before him as he went.
Her hand twisted the denim and a loan groan vibrated under his lips. Jake smiled against her skin finding a deep appreciation for the new no talking rule. He inhaled the scent of her and let out his own moan at the scent of Ellie’s skin and her arousal, like sweetgrass after a summer rain, fired his own desire. At the same time he argued with his hands begging him to grab hunks of material and rip open her dress and his brain warning him to go slow and plant every second to memory.
He’d only get one first time with Ellie, and though he meant to have many more and each one better than the last he wanted this time to be something they both remembered for years to come. A memory to bring intimate smiles over their coffee cups in the morning and spark a fire for renewed passion every time it crossed their dreams.
Once the last tiny button was freed, Jake smoothed his palms up Ellie’s back and gave her a little push forward to dislodge her grip on his jeans. Then with a kiss to each silky shoulder he ran his hands under the puffed sleeves and slid her dress off her shoulders then slipped his hands between the material and her thighs to help it over her curves and onto the floor. He sent her petticoat tumbling after.
“Raise your arms, Ellie.”
God bless her she didn’t even argue, but lifted her arms over her head allowing him to slip her camisole off in one fluid motion.
Before stepping around her Jake released the coil on top of her head and mouthed “Lord have mercy” as waves of mahogany fell down her back resting just above the sweet curve of her bottom. Beads of sweat broke out over his forehead. What had been a nice comfortable day turned into late August in Mexico. He rested a hand on one plush globe and gave a little squeeze.
She yelped and angled her head pinning him with a gaze reminiscent of someone tossing whiskey on a fire.
He smiled and lifted a forefinger to his closed lips shaking his head back and forth. She turned her head and Jake took the final steps so he blocked whatever she found so damn interesting on the wall.
Taking her hands in his he removed them from shielding her breasts and his tongue darted out to wet his parched lips. A whoosh of air followed him as he knelt before her, unlacing one boot and slipping it from her tiny foot and then doing the same with the other keeping his gaze locked on hers the whole time. The hitch in her brow questioned why he hadn’t taken a breast into his mouth, and God’s own truth he couldn’t tell her. Stripped half-naked, Ellie was by far the best vision his twenty-seven year old eyes had seen. Fact was, she was so fine Jake suffered a moment of regret for touching her and soiling her with his dirty hands and rough ways.
In his moment of doubt, her hands cupped his face and lifted his gaze back to hers. She gave a small nod and ran her soft palms over the rough stubble on his cheeks.
He removed her bloomers and stockings and filled his lungs with much needed air. He took in every ounce of Ellie’s flesh with his eyes until looking wasn’t enough and his hands roamed over every curve and the indent of her flat belly down to the soft curls between her thighs like a blind man learning her body through touch and what pleased her by the soft gasps and fingers dug into his hair encouraging him. He nudged her legs apart with one hand and explored the soft folds of her sex with a finger then two. She was hot and wet and biting into his shoulder driving Jake off a jump he’d been thundering to like a herd of buffalo.
Sweat trickled down his face from holding back until finally he stepped back and reached for the buttons on his jeans. She slapped his hands away and his gaze jerked to hers. She shook her head and with five deep breaths that raised her soft round breasts in all the right ways she grabbed his wrists and planted his hands to his side.
Her fingers went to the top button on his shirt and the knuckle of her forefinger brushed against the sensitive spot under his Adam’s apple. Grabbing one of her hands he lowered it to the bulge straining against his denims and lifted a brow in a silent order of where she should focus her attentions.
With a wicked grin she shook her head and wrested her hand from him turning her ministrations to the buttons on his shirt. Jake closed his eyes in a quick prayer that he wouldn’t unman himself and then slid them open watching her long graceful fingers work the buttons of his shirt.
ELLIE’s body sizzled and her mind was half crazed after Jake took his sweet time undressing her and his rough hands roved over her and in her, but she believed fair was fair. She didn’t suffer from his intolerable patience and had him stripped and naked before her in a blink.
His large hands rested on her hips as he tried to pull her into him, but Ellie slipped free and mimicking his earlier actions smiled and rested a forefinger against her closed mouth.
She planted his hands and arms against his sides again and broke the rule. “Please.” She whispered and kissed him on the mouth for the first time that evening. His eyes showed an understanding and he nodded. His mouth took possession of hers, but he never lifted his arms to capture her and pull her close. He didn’t need to, she wasn’t going anywhere as long as his warm full lips slanted against hers and his tongue teased and tasted her.
Control was angling fast back to Jake. Breaking the kiss, she trailed her mouth over the dark whiskers on his cheeks and chin warm heat coated her intimate place. Thoughts of exploring him using her hands as he’d done her fled with her first taste of his clean salty taste. He made her crave more, but Jake always made her crave more. For a woman who’d experienced the marriage bed as she explored Jake it was as clear as the sky outside, she didn’t know a thing about being properly bedded. She’d never even seen a man in his altogether until she pulled off Jake’s drawers, and seeing Jake was a privilege she wasn’t sure mortals were supposed to obtain.
She traced his shoulders and back with her mouth and hands. The man was tanned everywhere including his firm buttocks. She wasn’t sure she wanted to hear the story of how he stayed tan down there. Still keeping her palms flat on his flesh she returned to his front and memorized his chest and hard stomach. But he was hard everywhere. With her hand she encircled the hardest part of his body. His manhood stood from a thatch of dark curls, hot and hard but like silk as she pumped its length with deep strokes. Her channel clenched with a need so fierce it scared her. Heart pounding, Ellie felt a desire for something she’d refused to give another man. When she started to sink to her knees Jake’s hands clamped her forearms and he lifted her to her feet.
She scanned his face every wrinkle and his lips drawn tight telling her how much he wanted what she’d planned to do. She broke her rule again. “But, I’ve never. I’d like to…”
He pulled her close until the course dark curls of his chest tickled the hard peaks of her breasts and erased years of the proper behavior learned at her mother’s table. For her mother would be horrified to know Ellie continued to rub against the course hair teasing her own breasts against him.
“You will. Just not right now. Ya done?”
His deep laugh rumbled through his chest and her driving the last bit of information from her head.
“Done drivin’ me badger crazy?”
She saw his lips move but through the heat of his skin and his manhood pressed against her stomach all her blood filled her ears. Ellie never could read lips so she simply nodded willing to agree with anything Jake said at the moment.
His mouth crashed down on hers and through a haze of kisses she landed on the bed with Jake covering her. Her legs opened making room for him and with one deep thrust he settled deep and heavy inside her. Ellie arched to take more of him as he stretched and filled her. He wrapped his rough hands around her calves fastened her legs around his waist. Her neck arched back as she dug her nails deep into his back.
Whatever patience he’d exhibited while stripping her snapped and his thrusts were hard and deep. A wildness coiled in her belly and Ellie met each thrust. She kissed any piece of flesh she could reach as she raked his back with her fingernails and dug her heels into the muscles of his bottom.
His gaze caught hers and he winked. “Let go, Ellie.”
Bright lights danced before her eyes as her body unraveled in pleasure. Her throat held to much emotion to push any words past but her mouth formed one. “Jake.”
JAKE’s gaze caught her mouth form his name and even without sound it was like being pardoned a second time. His release followed as he poured his seed into her. With the last ounce of strength he mustered he rolled bringing her on top of him so he didn’t crush her with his full weight.
She didn’t move. He waited for…Well, he didn’t know what the hell he waited for. He caressed her back with his fingers as his mind replayed the entire evening. She shifted on him but remained pressed close.
The sounds of the night settling in around the ranch sounded like a train headed straight for the house with each passing second. Insects the size of bear buzzed outside the window and the creek about two feet behind the house ran over stones like whitewater. Jake hooked a finger under her chin and lifted her gaze to his. She folded her arms across his chest and rested her chin on the top. Her mouth turned in a smile and Jake took that for a good sign. No moisture gathered in her eyes, so at least she hadn’t been crying about him bedding her.
“I’m not sorry we did that, if that’s what the wrinkles in your brow are for. To be honest, I thought it was the most spectacular thing I’ve ever done. I think I lov…”
She shrugged, but Jake squirmed at the piece of her heart floating in her eyes.
“What are you thinking, Jake?”
“That I sure as hell need to bring ya more yellow flowers.”
Her laughter both lightened the mood and squeezed his heart, and here he thought the damn thing died years ago.
Ellie’s laughter lifted him out of the deepest sleep he’d been blessed with since his mother died. He ran a palm over the cold side of the bed she’d warmed the night before. The way the sun was glaring at him through the window he figured he slept in later than he had since his mother passed, as well. How Ellie could be up and moving after the night they put in, he was impressed. He’d found her in the night for another taste of heaven only to be awakened a bit later by her finishing what she started in the living room. He had to admit it was a helluva way to wake up, and one he wouldn’t mind revisiting every morning for the rest of his life.
Another bought of laughter had him tuning his ears to the door. That wasn’t Ellie’s normal laugh. The deep chuckle echoing hers brought Jake starch upright. He scanned the room until he found his clothes draped over a ladderback chair in the corner. Blessing Ellie for bringing them in the room he made short work of dressing and stomping out into the kitchen.
Jake raked his fingers through his hair. “Harry.”
Ellie angled her face so her gaze caught his and through the heightened color in her cheeks but there wasn’t the spark in her eyes. Whatever she was laughing at she was doing so to be polite and hide her fear.
Sundance’s mustache twitched in humor. “Jake. Take your talons out of your wife’s shoulders. I got the message.”
He hadn’t even realized he’d been squeezing Ellie’s shoulders. Sauntering over to the coffeepot he poured a mug and rested a hip against the counter. “Ya here to plan things out?”
Well, shit, there went a perfectly good dream.
If you’re stopping by for Part Eight of the Widow’s Lawman, I’m so sorry it’s delayed. Life interfered with writing and I couldn’t get the chapter to turn out like Jake or Ellie wanted or I was happy publishing. I’m working on it, though, and hope to have it to you early this week!
Thanks for not resortin’ to a hemp party!
If this was Jake wanting a woman, Ellie would just as soon go back to being the crazy widow he despised. After he made his announcement he’d planted a kiss on her so hot it’d make the devil sweat and then proceeded to stomp around and snap at everyone like a trapped buffalo. So she’d pulled him outside to set up camp in fear one more minute round the outlaws table with Jake barking at them and they were going to be facing the judgment of the Almighty face to face earlier than she’d like. He snorted and grunted intelligible words spreading out his bedroll and even in his sleep.
Now as they made their way back to Sheridan he rode in front of her his back so straight she’d swear he put too much starch in his shirt. They passed Buffalo and Ellie drew in a lung full of air. Her ranch sat between Buffalo and Sheridan, so she better say what was on her mind before he dropped her off and kept on riding into the next town.
“I think we should continue pretending to be married.”
He hadn’t turned around and his voice didn’t give any clue whether he was for or against the idea, but neither had he dug spur and disappeared in a cloud of dust or spit in her eye. Ellie took both as a good sign and caught up with him to ride side by side.
“You’ll be spending a bit of time on the place, and people might get suspicious. Also, Sundance said he’d be riding down in a few days to go over final plans it would be difficult to explain why none of your things are at the ranch and why you live in town.”
The brim of his hat shaded his face so she couldn’t see if the familiar tick afflicted his jaw. It wasn’t quite the enthusiastic response she’d hoped for, but it wasn’t a go to hell. The knots in her stomach and shoulders untied.
The rest of the day passed with only her thoughts keeping her company. Amy knew the tricks that would hold Jake’s attention. She’d brush her hair to spun gold and sweep it up in just the right do leaving a curl to follow her neckline. Then she’d adorn herself in her finest pink silks and say the perfect thing while resting a small white hand smooth as satin on his arm. Her brown eyes, the only thing the sisters had in common, would flutter showing off long eyelashes usually preserved for fancy store bought dolls. For the first time in her life Ellie envied her sister. She should have stayed inside and learned all the ways to make a home and keep a man at her mother’s side instead of learning about horses from Jim and his father.
Riding into the ranch yard relief sagged her shoulders. The hands were already in the bunkhouse for the night, but thanks to the long days of summer there was still plenty of light for her and Jake to take care of their horses before heading up to the house.
The silence continued as they took care of their mounts. Then Ellie took the lead expecting Jake to follow as she crossed into the stone house she’d shared with Jim. It was plain inside, a small kitchen just enough room for a coal burning stove, icebox and pantry. Through a small partition no bigger than a door was a dining room with a six foot long pine table plenty of room for she, Jim, the hands and anyone who happened by around supper time. Beyond the dining room was a sitting room furnished with a black leather oversized chair that hadn’t seen use in over a year and the rocking chair she favored. And off that room was the bedroom with its brass bed and solitary cherry wood armoire.
They’d kept the house simple. No knickknacks or photographs on the shelves or walls. The one bookcase in the sitting room held a few volumes, but it couldn’t be called a library. If they shared anything, it was their desire to sink about every last dollar in horseflesh and the means to care for it. For the four years they’d been married they had, and for the one he’d been gone Ellie had tried to continue with one horse in mind to offer a breed of ranch horses that would outshine any others.
She hooked her hat by the door and moved into the kitchen. Heavy boots on the hardwood floors made her stomach twist in unexpected loneliness.
“I’ll put my bedroll in the sitting room if that suits?”
Ellie pivoted on her boot heels meeting Jake’s gaze for the first time since he’d told her he wanted her. “No, it doesn’t suit. We should share the bed.”
He’d hooked his hat beside hers and now plowed his fingers through dampened hair. The dark wheat colored strands spiked giving him a boyish look even as his tale frame and broad build filled up her kitchen reminded her he was all man.
“That ain’t gonna happen, Ellie.”
“As I remember, you stated your price clearly. Have you decided you’d rather have the land then, Jake?”
He hooked his thumbs in the belt loops of his denims. “I was speakin’ out of turn when I said what I did. You need to forget it now.”
One step was all it took to plant her right in front of him. She rose to the balls of her feet and tipped back her head so she could at least meet him eyeball to chin. He let his head angled forward allowing her access to his whole face. She narrowed her eyes and scanned his features. “I’ll never forget it, Jake.”
“Let it rest, Ellie.”
She pressed closer his legs flattening her riding skirt against her thighs. “I’d think you’d know me better. I don’t let things rest, and I deserve to know why you don’t want me anymore.”
“Cause I don’t want a woman who’s still hankerin’ after another man.”
He pounded out of the house and onto the porch. Ellie followed on his heels resuming her place right in front of him.
“Who am I hankerin’ after?”
“Your husband? Lord, it’s clear as a mornin’ sky after a night of rain ya still love the man.”
She stepped back her hands falling off her waist. “Of course, I’ll always love Jim.”
He swung his arm out. “Well there ya go.”
When he rested his backside on the porch railing and crossed his arms over his chest she sank into the porch swing. She lifted her gaze to his. “But I was never in love Jim, and he was never in love with me.”
His arms fell and he rested his palms on the rail on each side of his hips. “It’s not the first time, but you’re not makin’ sense woman.”
“Jim and I were the best of friends from the moment I moved to Australia. We shared a love of horses and a love of getting into trouble. But he fell in love with my sister Amy. Unfortunately, my father didn’t want her marrying the foreman’s son, so he arranged for her to marry a young man from a wealthy family and Amy, who could never defy anyone, agreed.”
“So how’d you end up hitched to Jim if he loved your sister?”
“My father also had plans for my marriage. He thought I needed and older man with an iron hand, and I didn’t agree. Since Amy was already married to another, I begged Jim to emigrate to the American West with me. It sounded like such a great plan. We’d marry in secret and escape to the United States. I had money from my mother, who aided us. But there were two things I never counted on.”
He pushed off from the railing and eased down beside her on the swing. “What?”
“That Jim would never get over Amy and that Amy’s husband would die. The horse we’re going after is one Jim caught for her and when she married another he released Warrego. He went back to Australia, with my blessing, to catch the horse and propose to Amy. We’d divorce after he received his answer, but he never got a chance.”
Jake lifted a brow in question obviously tired of asking why.
“My father, never one to miss an opportunity, already arranged another marriage. Amy refused Jim a second time in favor of pleasing father.”
“Your sister don’t sound like the brightest star in the sky.”
Ellie shrugged. “Maybe not. But it’s my fault. If Jim hadn’t rescued me he would have been in Australia in time to secure her hand in marriage.”
“Not likely, Ellie. Sounds like this Amy couldn’t think without your pa doing it for her. Ya probably saved Jim a bit of heartache, least he had you.”
She rocked the swing with her legs. A smile tugged at her mouth when Jake joined her bending his long legs in time with hers to make the swing sway. “That’s what he said as he was dying, but I can’t make myself believe it.”
She took one of his hands and held it between both of hers. “So, I did love Jim and still do as my dearest friend.”
“Did ya live as husband and wife?”
Ellie released the smile. “Yes. We weren’t martyrs for a cause, Jake. I’m sorry if that bothers you.”
“Don’t bother me. It’s not like you’d see my name in the Good Book listed with the saints.”
“But I didn’t burn for him like I do for you, Jake, I hope he’d forgive me for speaking the truth, but there it is anyway.”
The swing swayed back and forth, back and forth, a tell-tale squawk in the chains every time it shifted back. She counted each squawk ticking off the long moments before he responded.
He kept his gaze on the ranch yard. “If we start this thing, I’m gonna want ya more than once.”
She squeezed his hand. “More than once tonight?”
His deep chuckle melted a few of her nerves and he shifted his gaze to her. “Yeah, I suspect that too. But I meant it won’t just be tonight, or tomorrow and all next week. It’s gonna be awhile before I get my fill of you.”
“What if you get your fill of me, but I’m not done with you, yet?”
His chuckle turned to a deep laugh that could melt cold iron. “Well then you’ll have to think of something else to steal, so’s I need payment.”
He stood bringing her up with him and led her back into the house. They didn’t bother lighting lanterns, or pretending they were going to eat and spend a pleasant evening discussing train robberies. He guided her to the bedroom like he’d been there a thousand times.
When they stood by the brass bed Jake bent his head and brushed a kiss over the knuckles of one of her hands and then the other. A shiver raced up her spine. “If I get you with child, Ellie, ya promise to tell me right off. I mean to know if I have a child and I mean to care for it.”
Her eyes burned with tears she held back. “I don’t think I can give you a child, Jake. I never could with Jim.”
She never regretted her inability to conceive until that moment. And Jake wasn’t promising her love or marriage, but somewhere deep inside she wished she could have Jake Avery’s child.
He caressed her cheek with the pad of a thumb. “Promise you’ll tell me, just in case.”
“I promise.” She’d promise him the moon and throw in a few planets if he’d just never stop looking at her through those hooded warm coffee eyes reflecting her image not that of a blond angel.
He pulled her close and brushed his mouth over hers then trailed kisses over her jaw and back to her ear. “Ya want me to strip ya, or are ya gonna take care of that?”
Melting into the warm breath on her ear and neck it took a few seconds for his question to swim through the blood thickening in her veins and reach her brain. When it did Ellie jerked back. “You’d remove my clothes? See me without a stich on?”
His mouth curved in a lazy smile causing her belly to burn with want. “My hands have been achin’ to strip ya down to nothing but skin since ya left my office with all those feathers on your head flyin’. And I kinda thought we might be seein’ each other. It’s how it’s done.”
The smile dropped from his face and he arched his back giving them a little space between, but not letting go of her. “Thought you’d done this before?”
“I have, but I guess we were more…” She bit her bottom lip until Jake bent down and kissed the side of her mouth where her teeth punctured her lip.
His voice dropped low. “More?”
She shrugged. “Parochial.”
“Parochial? That mean ya didn’t have any fun under the sheets?”
Fire spread through her blood burning a path to her face and igniting her temper. “No. It means we didn’t claw at each other like animals.”
The lazy smile returned, but flint took the place of warm coffee in his eyes. His arms dropped from her and he stepped back. “Looks like we did it again, Ellie, talked ourselves right outta a grand time.”
Shivers danced up her spine as claws of regret ripped at her insides. “So, we’re not…” Her gaze cut to the bed with its wedding ring quilt still tucked in tight at the corners and one pillow on each side plumped to perfection.
He bent in half scooping his bedroll up in one of those huge calloused hands she’d been looking forward to feeling on her body. “Nope. Not tonight anyways.”
“Not tonight, Ellie. But remember Jake Avery’s not a quitter. It’s why ya hired me.”
Her lungs started functioning again and the air opened her ears to what he was saying. There was still hope. Just like there was hope of retrieving Warrego and hope that a man could see her and want her. Jake carried mountains of hope on those broad shoulders.
“But get used to this, Ellie Reed, there won’t be nothing par-o-ch-ial about the way we come together. So, I’d sharpen those claws ya got for somethin’ other than sparin’ with me.”
With that he captured her mouth with his and kissed her until she roped her arms around his neck and kissed him back sweeping his mouth with her tongue without any encouragement from him. When he pulled back he closed one eye in a quick wink. “I think ya got some animal in ya after all.”
He set her back from him and Ellie admired the fact Jake Avery was a man who looked just as good leaving as coming as he sauntered from her room. She started undressing, but left the door open. Ya got some animal in ya… Jake’s whistling from the kitchen as he arranged his bedroll set her smile loose. And a new hope grew in her heart.