On Urgent Business

By Catherine

{A Rather Personal Interlude, With Some Explanation, Which Takes Place Between A Death in Eden and Changes}

I know I got a bad reputation,
And it isn't just talk, talk, talk,
If I could only give you everything,
You know I haven't got.

I couldn't have one conversation,
If it wasn't for the lies, lies, lies,
And still I wanna tell you everything,
'Til I close my eyes. . . .

Freedy Johnston, "Bad Reputation"

It was not quite three weeks before my ward, Sandy Nicholls, was to be married, and she had been holding me a captive audience for days now, as she went about her preparations. I wasn't quite certain why my presence was necessary, since she was managing everything quite satisfactorily on her own, from sewing her dress to making the arrangements with Reverend Bliss. She, however, saw things differently. At least, every time I tried to make my excuses and head downstairs to the office, she stopped me in my tracks with the sad, sweet, helpless look in those big brown eyes of hers.

On this particular morning, when I finally managed to escape the prison of white satin and heavy cream paper in which I'd been entangled, and head downstairs to the safe haven of my office, it was closer to noon than I wanted it to be. Jeremy Chadwick, my law partner, was sitting at his desk and giving me a peculiar look.

"Morning, Ella," he said. "There's a telegram on your desk."

"Client?" I asked.

"In a sense," he said. There was mischief in his light green eyes, and it was clear he was keeping his aquiline features expressionless only with the greatest of effort.

"Someone's either a client or they aren't," I responded. "I assume it isn't an emergency, or you'd have come up and rescued . . . I mean, interrupted . . . me."

"Now, Ella," he grinned, "I don't want you to miss out on any of Sandy's joy." Jeremy might not have been my kid brother in actual fact, but I often suspected he was more like one than the real thing would be.

I restrained myself from doing anything childish in response, and crossed the room to my desk, where the telegram sat prominently on top of one of the "to-do" piles. As soon as I read it, I saw the reason for his amusement.




"I assume that J. Smith is the Joshua Smith I know?" asked Jeremy. I really didn't appreciate the knowing smile he was flashing me.

"I suppose so," I said, as nonchalantly as I could. "Jeremy, where is Arthur's Corners, Wyoming, and how on earth does one get there?"

He rather triumphantly produced some maps and a sheaf of notes, and proceeded to demonstrate to me that if I left town on the noon train tomorrow and made three connections, I could be in Arthur's Corners on time. "That is, of course, if you're going."

"Well, this Chester Brubaker doesn't seem to be giving me any option, since he's indicated that he's en route there himself."

"It's kind of peculiar, isn't it, that a New Mexico attorney should want to meet a Montana attorney in Wyoming in order to discuss a mutual client of no fixed address, isn't it?"

"Well, um, you know, I guess Joshua Smith has spent a lot of time in Wyoming and . . . "

"I guess Hannibal Heyes has spent a lot of time in Wyoming. Didn't he and Kid Curry run their gang out of Devil's Hole, Wyoming?"

I felt as though someone had just told me that day was night, or that Montana territory was revoking the right of women to practice law. I'd been so careful -- Heyes and Curry had been so careful -- to keep Jeremy in the dark about their true identities. "What are you talking about, Jeremy?"

"Come on, Ella," he said. "It's okay. I've known who your friends Smith and Jones really are since that time we defended them in that civil suit over in Greenville. Some of the fellows they and I went to retrieve that stolen property from kindly identified them for me. I was afraid maybe you didn't know, since you seemed to be getting a little," he cleared his throat, "partial, shall we say? to Joshua Smith. But I figured that was why Smith and Jones called you in on that case in the first place, because you knew who they really were, from that first time you met up with them here in town." He smiled and shook his head. "Well, that and because Joshua Smith seemed to be a little partial to you, too."

I sighed, deeply. "There's no point in trying to lie about it, is there? I confess to it all, counsellor, and throw myself on the mercy of the court."

Jeremy looked serious, for a moment. "You're not telling me . . . There really is something going on between the two of you then?" He paused as I nodded wordlessly. "I kind of figured he might be interested in meeting up with you again, but I didn't think that you'd . . . well, I tried to convince myself that whatever happened between you and him that night in Townsend was just the same kind of mistake that I made." Jeremy, promised but not yet married, had drunk rather more than was his custom and had wandered off with a dancehall girl that night, but not before he'd seen Heyes kissing me on the dance floor. We'd had an unspoken pact not to actually talk about it, however. I knew he still felt as though he'd betrayed Melanie, and as for me, I think he had been determined to believe that nothing more had happened than what he'd actually witnessed.

"So you thought the notorious Hannibal Heyes was pursuing an old maid lawyer without the slightest bit of encouragement?" I asked, looking him straight in the eyes.

"I guess I hoped so. That's just sort of . . charming in its way."

"Worth teasing me over, instead of lecturing me about?"

"This is another story, Ella. A more dangerous one. Look, Sandy thought he was sweet on you when the two of you ran into them in Colorado a couple of months ago, but she didn't think that you . . . and I didn't want to think . . . You must realize it's not exactly the best judgment you've ever shown." He reached over and put a hand on my shoulder. "I'm not going to say it doesn't worry me, because it worries me a lot. But I did get to know Heyes a little bit, and I can understand that there's more to him than his criminal reputation would suggest. Anyway, I guess matters of the heart don't have much to do with reason or logic, do they?"

"How would you know, Jeremy? You married the prettiest girl in town and she's turning out to be the best wife in town. Your heart showed pretty good judgment."

 He shrugged. "Just lucky, I guess." We both reflexively looked upstairs, hoping that Sandy's choice would turn out to be as fortunate. He turned back to me, stepped forward, and put a hand on my shoulder. "Be careful, Ella. I don't want to see you getting hurt. There are so many ways this can go wrong on you. I really do think he's basically a good man, despite his past and everything, but he's not like us."

I gave him a little smile and said, "I know, and I don't want to see me getting hurt, either. Jeremy, I think this could be about the amnesty."


"Well, you might have noticed how anxious they were to keep on the right side of the law when we met up with them back in Greenville, and you might have figured that was a little out of character for a pair of notorious bank robbers. They've kept to the straight and narrow for close to two years now, and they've been promised that sooner or later the governor of Wyoming is going to give them an amnesty."

He raised a single eyebrow, a talent I'd always envied. "I see. Well, then, maybe your judgment isn't quite as bad as I thought it was."

"Oh, yes it is," I said. I could see the direction Jeremy's thoughts were tending in, and I didn't want them to stray down that fairytale path any further.

Exactly three days later, my train pulled into Arthur's Corners, Wyoming. I hadn't the slightest idea what Chester Brubaker, Esq., looked like, and since the telegram was to E. Hart, Esq., I wasn't even sure he'd be expecting a woman. It would be just like Heyes not to tell him, in order to see his expression when he realized that this blonde woman was the other attorney he'd wired to come to town.

Of course, I had my hopes that Mr. Brubaker's client might be accompanying him, but this was business. I 'd had a couple of days on the train to speculate, and all I could come up with was that it must have something to do with the amnesty. If there was anything I could do to contribute to Heyes' chances of getting clear with the law, I certainly wanted to do it. I could rationalize away the obscure location where we were meeting in any number of ways -- it might be en route to someplace else Brubaker was going, it could be a place where my outlaw friends had never met the sheriff. The thing that really troubled me, though, was the complete absence of Thaddeus Jones' name from the telegram. Surely Heyes wouldn't be up for the amnesty without Curry. The other possibility was that Heyes had gotten himself into trouble without Curry, but, inseparable as they were, I didn't see that as too likely.

I stepped off the train, onto the platform, and looked for an unfamiliar figure, possibly accompanied by one or two familiar ones. What I found was one very familiar one, all alone, and looking extremely pleased with himself. What's that expression -- like the cat that swallowed the canary? As always, I got that funny feeling inside when I caught sight of his lean form, his handsome, distinctive features, and those dark eyes. And as always, I did my best not to let on in public that ours was anything other than a strictly professional relationship.

"Hello, Mr. Smith," I said, putting down my suitcase, and extending my hand for a formal handshake. "Where's Mr. Brubaker? I got his wire, and here I am. I can tell you it took some doing to get me here in time for this meeting."

He took my hand, but instead of shaking it, he held it in his own, for a moment, before releasing it. "Well, hello, Ella. How was your journey? You're looking lovely, as always." He grinned at me, then shook his head. "Didn't your ma ever teach you about polite conversation?"

"Yes, but my father taught me it was a waste of time for a busy attorney. Is Brubaker meeting us somewhere?"

"Only if you'd like to accompany me to Junction City, New Mexico."

"Is this a joke? And where's Mr. Jones?" I asked, suspiciously.

"No joke, Ella. I missed you. I couldn't exactly wire you and say 'Meet me in Wyoming because I want to see you again before we head south for a long spell,' now could I?"

I looked around to make sure no one else was within earshot. "Well, I appreciate the sentiment, but maybe for future reference we could work out some kind of code we both understand? Because I came here prepared for a meeting, and it's a little unsettling to be surprised like this. Not to mention that this is an extremely busy time for me, and I had a hard time getting away."

He laughed. "There's ever a time that isn't? If I waited until you had some free time, next time I saw you might be just in time for us to celebrate my fortieth birthday together. I didn't really want to wait ten years." He picked up my luggage in one hand, and then offered me his other arm. "I didn't figure you did, either. Come along back to the hotel, now. I told the desk clerk that Mrs. Smith would be joining me this afternoon."

"Yes, dear," I said, with as much sarcasm as I could muster, though it was hard to be sarcastic when even the touch of my hand on his arm was sending shivers through me.

The hotel was quite near the depot, and Heyes ushered me inside, explaining to the desk clerk that his wife was tired after her long journey, and needed to rest. It had been a long journey, and I was tired, but I didn't expect that resting was on the agenda.

When we'd gotten to the room, he closed the door behind us, and turned the key in the lock. Then he put his arms around me and gave me a long, lingering, breathtaking kiss. I forgot that I was annoyed with him, and thought to myself that it had been well worth the two days' train ride it had taken to get here.

"Mmmm," was the first thing I found myself capable of saying, when he released me. "Heyes, where's the Kid? You didn't answer my question before."

"There was a delivery job we got that didn't require both of us. I told him I'd wait for him here. Play a little poker, take it easy, see if I could get my favorite attorney to fit a meeting with me into her busy schedule." I could imagine the kind of persuading it had taken to get the Kid to agree to this one.

"I was kind of jealous, finding out there's another lawyer in your life."

"Brubaker? Aww, Ella, he means nothing to me. He's just this . . . lawyer." That grin again. "Besides, he's not nearly so pretty as you."

"Was that wire really from him?"

"Yeah, I wired him and asked him to send it as a favor. I figured it'd look better that way, if Chadwick or someone saw it before you did. That's why it's to "E. Hart" -- if I'd've told him your first name, he would've had all kinds of questions that I wasn't sure I'd feel like answering."

Heyes was so pleased with himself that I decided not to mention the fact that Jeremy had seen right through it. "And of course, the rest of it was completely everyday, ordinary stuff."

"Well, he's used to me and my odd requests."

"So there is another lawyer in your life."

"Okay, okay, I admit it. I'm two-timing you with another lawyer. Are you happy?" He got a mischievous look on his face. "But I never did this to him," he leaned in and gave me a long, lingering kiss on the lips. "And I never did this to him, either." He unbuttoned the top few buttons of my shirtwaist and pulled it aside to uncover part of my neck and shoulder, and he kissed the exposed skin. I sighed happily. "Or this," and he cupped his hand around one of my breasts, playing gently with the nipple through the fabric of my shirtwaist and camisole.

"Oh, my. Isn't it getting a little . . . warm in here?" I fanned at myself.

"Well, maybe you should take off some of that heavy clothing," he suggested, recommencing his work on the buttons of my shirtwaist.

Undressing fully took some time, since he insisted on helping me, and we kept getting distracted by this and that, as he found different spots that needed to be kissed or caressed, interesting, sensitive spots like the inside of my elbow, or the hollow of my collarbone, or, last and most notably, my inner thighs, teasingly close to, but not touching, the curling hair that surrounded my womanhood.

But eventually I had shed even my camisole and underdrawers, and I stood naked in front of him. He eyed me approvingly, even as I found myself self-consciously crossing my arms over my breasts. "Have I mentioned that it's nice to have you here?"

I smiled, but I commented, "Not fair. You're fully dressed."

He shrugged. "I took off my gunbelt." He pointed to the bedpost, where it was hanging. I shuddered a little; it was an unpleasant reminder of the fact that I'd gotten myself involved with a man with a dangerous way of life. He slipped off his vest, then sat on the edge of the bed and removed his boots. "Well, you gonna help me or what? I helped you."

I sat down beside him on the bed and leaned over to unbutton his shirt. But soon our progress was just as impeded as it had been before, as I found my own share of places which needed attention. I pulled off his henley undershirt, and traced the line of his spine down with my lips and tongue, and was rewarded by seeing him shudder with pleasure. I admired his broad shoulders, almost surprising on a man so slim.

Then I took my hands, and kind of guided him so that he turned around, and I began to flick my tongue at his nipples. I bit gently at them, and he stroked his hand through my hair as if to indicate approval. I pulled back, to run my hand across his chest, which was covered with fine, dark hairs. Then I bent down, and ran kisses up and down his lean, hard belly.

"Ella," he said, when I'd pulled away and he'd stopped moaning with pleasure, "how come you know just what to do, when you ain't never been with any man but me and . . . " he trailed off, not wanting to name my long-dead fiance.

"Well," I stammered, "I-I guess I remember if I do something and it seems to give you pleasure. And sometimes I remember what you do to me. I mean, a man and a woman can't be too different that way, can they? But mostly, it just seems to come naturally."

I guess he could see me blushing, even though the curtains were drawn, because he put a hand on the side of my face. "I wasn't doubting you, honey. I meant it as a compliment."

He leaned forward to kiss me, and I responded briefly, but then I turned my head away. I knew he'd been with many more women than just two, and I suspected that most of them had a great deal more experience than I did. I wondered if any of them had been like me, though, "respectable." I wondered if any of them had felt the way I did about him, and I wondered if any of them had taken the risks I had because of it. From the time I'd chanced on him in Colorado, a couple of months earlier, when he'd been in the company of a saloon girl, I knew that these other women weren't all in the past, either. I didn't want to think about that now. He'd told me it was different with me. Even Kid Curry had told me that he knew Heyes' feelings for me were different, and he can't have been too crazy about the idea of his partner falling for anyone, not even me, although I knew he liked me well enough. Well, I'd gotten myself into something strange and scary, and the best way of dealing with it was not to think about it more than I had to, but just to go along with what happened.

It wasn't like there was any kind of a future in it for either of us, anyway.

I excused myself for a moment, and disappeared behind the dressing screen in the corner of the room. When I emerged, he was sitting upright on the edge of the bed, completely naked. I stood for a moment, admiring his lean, well-knit body.

"You okay, Ella?"

In answer, I walked over to him, facing him, and I put my hands on his shoulders, and guided him gently backwards, and back onto the bed. Then I straddled him, my thighs encircling his slim hips. His manly part, his . . . penis, I knew it was called, now . . . was standing straight and erect away from his body. It looked red and huge and sort of painful. As I lowered myself onto it, spreading my legs and my own woman parts, he groaned in a sort of delighted agony. "Oh, Ella," he whispered, "that feels so good."

I moved my hips up and down, so less and then more of him was inside me. I was soaking wet down there, myself, and it slid in and out easily. I began slowly, thrusting my hips gently, but gradually I picked up speed and force.

After a little while, he put one of his arms around me, and used the other one as leverage, and rolled us over so that he was now on top of me. I continued moving myself up and down, but now he began to thrust, too, in perfect time with my own movements. Soon he increased his speed and force, and I matched him, still feeling his hard, thick penis against the walls of my own inner parts. He was groaning with pleasure now, so loud I was afraid the whole floor of the hotel was going to hear it. I was moaning more softly, my pleasure intense but not taking me to the place I knew he was going.

The intensity of his thrusting grew until there was nothing in the world but our bodies touching at this central core, and then I felt him shudder and explode inside me. His final cry was such that I would have thought it originated in pain if I hadn't known it was pleasure.

Then I was cradling his head in my arms, as he lay, limp and exhausted. I gave him as long as it took until he stopped shuddering, and then I shifted my weight, and pulled myself down even with him, so that our faces were near each other. "Oh, Ella, honey," he whispered, and kissed me softly.

But I wasn't finished yet. I moved his hand down towards the moist triangle between my legs, until his fingertips brushed that sweet, secret place inside.

"Mmm," he whispered. "You're not done yet, are you?"

"Uh-uh," I indicated, and he began to stroke me, gently, and then more intensely. As my reactions grew stronger, he became more and more involved with the task, until he was as engaged with it as I was. I was so wet down there that he had to try hard to achieve any kind of friction, but as he stroked me, I found myself more and more centered on that one special place in my body, and then there was nothing else and all I felt was the stroking and the pressure and that central core of myself and I fell in into a flash of light and pleasure and then I was still again. And this time it was me who cried aloud.

We lay there in silence for a long time afterwards, his chest and loins pressed against my back and buttocks, and his arms clasped around me. There was no longer any light peeping around the edges of the drawn curtains, and far below, we could hear the faintest sound of plates and glasses clinking together in the hotel's dining room.

Finally, I spoke. "Heyes?"

"Huh?" His mouth was close to my ear. "You okay?"

"More than okay," I murmured. "It's nice to see you again so soon. It's hardly two months since we were in Colorado together."

"When the Kid gets back, we're heading down Texas way. Maybe Mexico. It could be six months before we're back up this way again. I just didn't want to leave without seeing you."

"Six months, huh? That's an awful long -- what am I saying? Heyes, we usually go six months without seeing each other."

I heard him chuckling in my ear. "We don't have to like it, though."

I unclasped his arms, and slid around so that I was facing him. "No, we don't. Is there any progress on the amnesty? I'll have to admit, that's what I thought Brubaker wanted to see me about. I couldn't figure out why else a lawyer from Montana and a lawyer from New Mexico were supposed to be meeting in Wyoming to talk about you."

The room was getting darker, but I could see the expression in his dark eyes had saddened. "I don't know, really. I keep pushing the Kid, telling him we've got to keep on the straight and narrow, and the governor's bound to keep his word one of these days, but it's hard. It's hard to believe it's ever really going to happen." He stopped for a moment. I knew what he was going to say next, knew it without hearing it, and I wanted to stop him, but I couldn't. "Ella, I really wanted to see you. You know that I care about you. But I'm still a wanted man, and I don't know that I won't be running for the rest of my life. I guess maybe I'm being selfish, asking you to show up someplace, pretend to be someone you're not, and all the while there's always the chance that someone is going to recognize me. And you could be with me when that happens. This is a big risk for you."

"If you're trying to tell me you don't want this anymore, you sure have a funny way of doing it. You could have just not contacted me again. It would have been a long time before I would have even realized that that's what you were doing."

"I couldn't do that. I couldn't tell you I don't want to see you again, because it wouldn't be true. I just . . . I just mean that just because we've been lucky so far doesn't mean there aren't some real risks involved."

I almost laughed aloud. There were other risks that Heyes appeared to be blissfully unaware of. There was my reputation, for one thing. I was breaking a lot of rules, sleeping with a man I wasn't married to, and the truth was that the repercussions would be one-sided. Everyone expected someone like Hannibal Heyes to have lovers, mistresses, whatever you might call them. But, even setting aside the fact that I'd chosen a man with a notorious reputation as an outlaw, I'd chosen a man, at all. Miss Ella Hart was supposed to be a maiden lady, pure, untouched, inviolate. If I hadn't given myself to my late fiancé, all those years ago, it would never have occurred to me to act on my attraction to the handsome stranger.

And I had never thought it would be more than a one-time occurrence, a memory to store away and cherish in private. I had never expected that Hannibal Heyes and I would be meeting again and again, or that I would find myself behaving at odds with everything I'd always been taught was respectable and right. It's funny how I didn't feel like a fallen woman.

But I knew that I could go from being one of the most respected people in my town, to one of the most scorned. I would do everything in my power not to let that happen, short of giving him up. Back in Colorado we'd agreed that it wasn't safe for him to come and see me in Blue Sky, not until he got the amnesty, anyway. He and his partner had almost been found out there once already, and next time Lom Trevors' word might not be enough.

And there were other risks, too. We'd been lucky, the first few times -- the timing had been right. After that, I'd made it my business to learn about the precautions a woman could take. There were ways, and I hoped they were reliable. That's what I'd been doing behind that screen. My bookseller back East had found me some books with euphemistic titles like The Fruits of Philosophy and The Law of Population that told me how. He'd had to supply me with smuggled copies from England, and to ship them disguised as something else. There was something disgraceful called the Comstock Act, which tried to keep such knowledge from women.

But, with all that, I was . . . happy. Life certainly was peculiar that way.

What I actually said was, "I figured that one out a long time ago. I'm here, aren't I?"

In response, he kissed me, and ran a hand gently down the side of my face and down my neck and shoulder. "You hungry?"

"Well, now that you mention it, I could stand to eat. And maybe they could send up a bath?"

And with great reluctance, and many small interruptions, we put our clothes back on. Of course, men's and women's clothing differing as it does, Heyes was fully dressed while I was still struggling with my various undergarments, so he ended up helping me along again, which, as it had done before, merely delayed matters further. Eventually I was presentable, and we left the safe haven of our room for the hotel's dining room.

There was a small looking glass by the door of our room, and I looked at the two of us together. Heyes had left off the corduroy vest he usually wore, and had on a brown jacket and a sort of a floppy bow tie. I noticed he hadn't put on his gun. I was in a white shirtwaist and a dark skirt, which could have belonged to nearly anybody. The thing that struck me funny was that if you hadn't known who we really were and how we were so different from each other, there was absolutely no reason to suspect that we didn't belong together. I think he saw it, too, because he smiled into the mirror and gave me his arm.

When we returned from dinner, a bathtub was waiting. He was a gentleman and let me take the first bath, even though I pointed out that my two days' worth of railroad grit was bound to dirty the water more than anything he could contribute. He responded that he and my railroad grit had already come into close contact, if I recalled correctly, and that there was probably as much of it on him now, anyway, as there was on me. I couldn't argue with that, so I gratefully accepted.

I settled back in the tub, feeling the warm water wash over me, over everything but my neck and shoulders. For awhile I just soaked myself, enjoying the water, until my companion said, "Ella, you want to move it along there? You take much longer, and I'm going to get an ice cold bath."

"Sorry," I said, and got on with the process, soaping my skin and my hair, and allowing the water to rinse it off.

When I'd finished, I reached over for the towel, and I rose and climbed out of the tub, drying myself off. "Your bath, sir, still nice and warm." I wrapped the thick turkish towel around me.

He'd already stripped. He stood there stark naked and I watched the play of the muscles in his legs and buttocks as he stepped into the tub. "And where do you think you're going?" he asked me, when he'd settled in.

"To put on my nightdress and then sit in that chair right there," I pointed at the same chair, near the tub, where he'd been sitting. "Does your highness have a problem with that?"

"Come here."

And I did, towel still clutched around me. I stopped just short of the edge of the tub, and he leaned over and kissed me. Soon I was responding, kissing him as hungrily as though we hadn't just spent the hours before dinner making love, and the towel had fallen to the floor. Finally, he pulled away. "Let me just finish up here. You wait right over there, " he pointed at the bed.

So I dried myself all over again, and climbed into the big iron-framed bed, pulling the sheets up over me. A few minutes later he had climbed in beside me, and thrown the covers off again. He ran a hand down my body, stopping to stroke my breasts and continuing on downward to my thighs. I did the same, running my hand down his arm, his chest, his belly, until I hit the dark curls down below. I took his penis, not quite as hard and large as it had been earlier, and gently stroked it a couple of times, when a sudden, sharp intake of breath from him startled me and I quickly pulled away.

"Why'd you stop?" he asked, gently.

"I wasn't sure if I was hurting you."

He smiled. "Oh, no. Go on, honey. Please. It feels real good when you do that."

So I replaced my hand and stroked him there again, and gradually I felt it grow bigger and harder under my touch. It was an odd feeling -- I guess he'd always come to me, um, ready before. But I liked his little moans of encouragement, and I liked feeling the smooth, hot flesh swell against my palm and fingers.

Then he gently removed my hand, and laid me on my back, and lowered himself on top of me. I felt him inside me and I felt so warm and good, and he was slow and easy almost the whole time, this time, until just at the end when he began thrusting harder and faster and I could feel what shook him through all of me.

And after he had rested a little, he surprised me by leaning down to kiss me between my legs and soon I felt his tongue flickering in the same place his finger had been before. Never in my wildest imaginings had I ever . . . the sensation was even more intense than the one his fingers had caused, yet softer, gentler. Soon I was lost in the feelings and it was more, more, more and then with a burst it was over.

He looked up at me, his brown eyes luminous, and then he pulled himself up again so that he lay by my side. "You liked that, huh?" He gave me that smile, and I reached out and put my hand on that irresistible dimple of his, and he put his hand up to hold mine there for a minute, and said, "Ella, I --" but then he fell silent.

We lay there like that for some time, just looking at each other, and then he suddenly yawned and stretched. I pulled my arm back, and looked at him lazily. "So just exactly how long were you thinking my meeting with Attorney Brubaker would run?"

"Well, the Kid won't be back for maybe another three or four days. I'm meeting him in another town about half a day's ride away. When do you have to get home?"

 "It's a bad time, unfortunately. I'm going to have to be on the last train out of here tomorrow evening. I've got a trial coming up at the beginning of next week, and it's one of my old clients who can't get it through his head that Jeremy isn't still a schoolboy. So I've got to take that one myself. And of course, Sandy is getting married in just over two weeks."

"That soon?" He sounded surprised.

"Uh-huh. I'll be glad when it's over. She's been absolutely consumed by all this. She's fretting about every single detail, and that's not like her. I'm afraid what it's really about is whether she can please Cora Johnson, and I don't think there's a potential daughter-in-law alive that could please Cora."

He laughed. "Hey, how come the Kid and me haven't gotten our invitations?"

"Now, Heyes," I reminded him, "you know we decided it wouldn't be a good idea for you and the Kid to come to Blue Sky again until after you got the amnesty."

"I didn't say we'd come. We've got to head down to Texas to see Big Mac McCreedy, anyway. But it'd be nice to be invited. We both liked Sandy."

"All right," I said. "You're invited. As long as you promise you won't actually show up, you can be as invited as you like."

"Well, that's better," he said, shifting and arranging his arms around me. "Sleep well."

"Mmmm, I will," I murmured, nestling against him. And soon I knew nothing more until the morning.

The morning seemed to come much sooner than I'd expected. As I first became aware of my surroundings, I stretched out and discovered I was in the bed alone. I opened my eyes, to find Heyes seated across the room, reading the book I'd brought with me on the train. He'd already dressed and shaved.

"Well," he said, "I was wondering if you were going to sleep away the whole morning. You're as bad as the Kid."

I smiled at him. "The unusual exertions of yesterday have taken their toll."

He smiled back and the room suddenly seemed twice as bright. "I was looking at the train schedule, and it seems like you've got to be out of here at four o'clock. I was thinking maybe we'd hire you a horse and ride out some, this morning. Maybe bring a picnic."

I yawned and stretched. "Ambitious, aren't you? All right, give me a minute to wake up." He went and made the arrangements as I woke myself up, washed and dressed.

We rode out of town. The surrounding countryside wasn't all that different from what I was used to around Blue Sky, but we were further away from the mountains, and the riding was easy. It was one of those perfect days where the sky was clear and bright and blue, and we rode on in silence for awhile. Eventually, we reached a hollow by a stream, and we reined in our horses. "This looks like a nice place," he said. "Let's stop here."

We picnicked, while he caught me up on what he and his partner had been up to lately, where they'd ridden to and what they'd done since I'd left them in Colorado. I filled him in on my caseload and Sandy's wedding -- all the little details that make up my life. And then he got a funny, faraway look in his eyes.

"What's the matter?" I asked. "Don't tell me I'm boring you senseless, am I?"

He shook his head. "No. It's just something you said. It reminded me of an expression my ma used to use." He'd told me plenty of stories about his days on the outlaw trail, and about his adventures and misadventures since, but he had never spoken to me of his childhood. Once, he had simply told me that he and Kid Curry had been in an orphanage together after their parents were killed by raiders, during the War. But now he began to tell me stories about the family farm, and his parents, and a couple of sisters and brothers, and an old dog. He seemed different, somehow, as he remembered back to those more innocent times.

And then he told me about the day the raiders had come, and how he and Jed (the Kid, whose real first name I'd never heard before) who lived on the neighboring farm, had been out fishing. They had heard some noise, and had gone home to find complete devastation, and everyone dead. Now I could see where that deep sadness that always lay behind his dark eyes, even when he was smiling and laughing, had come from.

I went over to where he was sitting, and I put my arms around him and just held him. At first he was stiff, resisting, and then he relaxed and put his own arms around me, and we sat there like that for a very long time.

Then he caught sight of where the sun was in the sky and pulled away from me. He pulled a pocket watch out of his vest pocket, and showed it to me. Two-thirty. "We'd better be getting back to the hotel if you're going to be on that four o'clock train."

We barely made it. He kissed me quickly on the platform, but then I had to board. I watched him wave to me through the window as my train pulled out of the station. Then I saw him turn away. I wondered how long it would be before we saw each other again.

I reached inside my bag, looking for my book, when I remembered that last I'd seen it, Heyes had been reading it. He'd probably put it down in the hotel room and neither of us had thought of it, in our hurry. Well, I hope he enjoyed it. I resignedly pulled out the file for my upcoming trial, but I sat there without even glancing at the pages for a long time.

I had plenty to think about. Not just the sweet interlude we'd had together or even the stories he'd told me about his childhood. The thing that really got to me was the trust that it implied. It was a big responsibility, being trusted by somebody like Hannibal Heyes. And nothing else he could have said or done could have meant more to me.

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