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!
Things are gettin’ hot here in Sheridan, and I think most of the heat is comin’ from the Sheriff’s office…
Ellie shifted on the hard seat of the ladder-back chair and stiffened her spine. She laced her fingers together and squeezed one hand with the other to keep from landing a blow to the good Sheriff Jake Avery’s face. His large hands gripped the front of his desk as the waves of his laughter slapped against her. He’d blinked twice at her proposition to rob a train, and then… this…laughter so deep his tight stomach rolled and teardrops rested on long dark blond eyelashes. He even snorted a couple times.
Refusing to let the insult of his laughter humble her, Ellie never allowed her gaze drop to her lap or shift from his face. If he thought her insane, he had cause. She’d give him that much. Over the past week she’d called on Jake for everything from a cat stuck in a tree, one she’d chased up that tree, to a broken fence she said her neighbor cut allowing her cattle to scatter. Jake spent all day and well into the night helping her round up the cattle she’d let lose by cutting her own fence. These were just two of the awful things she’d done all to test Jake’s patience, endurance and trustworthiness. And he’d passed.
Oh, she’d noticed the tick in his clenched jaw, the looks toward the heavens and clenched fists. But Jake was a man who saw a job through no matter how frustrating, or distasteful. She’d also been introduced to how quick he could open a safe without the combination when she “forgot” the combination to her husband’s safe. And through a series of other mishaps, she’d been schooled in his skill with armaments of any variation. She’d heard the stories, now she knew the man. So, if he wanted to play the buffoon and howl with laughter for a few moments at her expense she’d allow it…this time.
But lordy, she wished he’d be quick about it, she was about to melt in a pool of blue satin from all the clothes she was layered into from bloomers to corset to the indigo dress she’d worn with the infernal feather hat to match. It was a dress her late husband brought back to her from his last trip to Australia. Jim saw her in it once when he took her out to a celebratory supper. He’d fallen ill the next day, and the dress was hidden in mothballs until she aired it out two days ago for her meeting this morning.
The pain in her left hand alerted her that memories were causing her to clamp down too hard. She cleared her throat in effort to speed things along. The sheriff’s laughter died with a sputter as his gaze met hers and his right eyebrow hitched.
“You’re not laughin’?”
“Because it wasn’t a joke, Sheriff Avery. I want you to help me rob a train.”
The man might be thick, but she couldn’t deny he was the best looking man she’d ever laid eyes on. Please Jim, forgive me. He was lean and hard with high cheekbones and a square chin that could use shaving, but those whiskers would feel oh so nice against her palm or cheeks or other soft places…She shifted in her seat again. This time her discomfort had nothing to do with the hard wood under her bottom and everything to do with a burning low in her belly. A shock of hair the color of wheat ready to be harvested rested on his forehead and gave the only illusion of softness to the sheriff as his warm coffee brown eyes turned cold and narrowed.
He folded his arms across his broad chest stretching the sleeves of his green chambray shirt over strong biceps. “I’m the sheriff. I don’t rob trains.”
The tick in his jaw returned and Ellie hated she’d inflicted a man with an ailment. He’d looked much nicer with his eyes crinkled in humor and a deep dimple in his left cheek.
She swallowed and tightened her hold on her left hand. “But you have…robbed a train.”
A cloud must have rolled over the sun because shade enveloped the room with silence. She stared at him. He stared at her. Neither blinked. Her blood rushed to her ears pounding if deafening beats. Ellie doubted she would have heard him speak even if his lips moved. She was sure life continued on the streets of Sheridan. Why Mrs. R.B. Stephenson was advertising the arrival of the newest Parisian patterns and walking hats at The Bazaar, and Dr. Frackelton just returned to Sheridan the day before surely there was a line at his office of those long overdue for dental work. But by the unbearable lack of sound Ellie would swear only tumble weeds rolled down Main Street.
One word thundered through the small office. “Why?”
Her forehead cooled with perspiration as her cheeks turned to fire. “Why?”
He pushed forward until he hung over the desk his palms flat against the honey colored wood. “Why do you want to rob a train Mrs. Reed? Just for the helluva it, or are ya rubbin’ my nose in past shit?”
She bit her bottom lip at the crude language. He must be in a rage to purposely try to insult her. He’d never sworn in her presence. Not when the cat clawed his arm, or a heifer stepped on his foot. The words scrolled in his eyes, but he’d never muttered them out loud. Her teeth released her lip and caught him watching the action with warm intent. His Adam’s apple bobbed in a slow swallow. Well at least she could make him as uncomfortable as he was making her.
“I assure you this has nothing to do with your past, and everything to with mine. Something belonging to my late husband will be on a train traveling through Wyoming in a month. I want it.”
“What is it?”
“I’ll tell you when you agree to help me.”
Deep lines creased his forehead and her fingers itched to push the errant lock of hair out of his eyes. “I don’t like games, Ellie.”
She leaned toward him still hovering until their noses almost touched. When she breathed in and inhaled the scent of coffee, sage, leather and man she realized her mistake, but as she always did she forged forward. “Good. I don’t play games, Jake.”
He dropped back onto his chair and stared at her again the fingers of one of his hands drumming on the flat surface. After another eternity passed his shoulders lifted and fell. “Okay, I’ll bite. What are we stealing?”
Her shoulders collapsed in relief and she folded one of his hands in both of hers without thinking. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” When his hand squeezed hers she tried to remove it, but his grip tightened.
“What’s gonna be on that train, Ellie?”
She let the use of her given name slide a second time. “A horse.”
“Must be a thoroughbred or somethin’?”
“No, he’s just a ranch horse. Mountain born and bred and the finest equine on earth. He was Jim’s and I want him.”
His straight nose wrinkled as though her plan smelled of manure. “Risk our necks for some ol’ ranch horse? Hell, ya can get some of the best horseflesh right here.”
“But Jim didn’t ride through the brush and over half of Australia for any of the horseflesh around here. And none of these horses were trained by Jim. I don’t want any other horse.”
“And what do I get out of the deal?”
“What do you want?”
His hand hugged hers. She’d forgotten they were still holding hands and the fire in her belly turned to an inferno that was reflected in his eyes. His gaze wandered over her from the low neckline of her dress to the tip of the tallest feather in her hat. The bodice of her dress grew tight as her breasts grew heavy and her chest expanded with each deep breath. If he asked for her would she give him rights to her body? She wet her parched lips with her tongue and followed his gaze as it landed on her mouth. Yes. Forgive me Jim, she whispered to herself. But she’d been a long time without a man and Jake Avery could fill that ache and then some.
His mouth curved in a slow smile and she waited prepared to act shocked and then acquiesce.
“Half your spread.”
She huffed and jerked her hand away, and then his words found their mark in her brain. She shot to her feet. “Half my what?”
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)