A Gunsmoke Story
By Amanda (MAHC)
POV: Sam Noonan
Spoilers: “Hostage!;” “Quiet Day in Dodge;”
Disclaimer: I didn’t create these characters.
Sam Noonan smiled as he watched the beer drip from the sodden heads of Dobie Crimps and Buck Doolin. Kitty’s dousing had abruptly subdued the two old timers, who, nevertheless, seemed to be taking it in stride. Funny as it was, though, her reaction triggered alarms in the bartender’s mind, and his smile faded. She usually tolerated that kind of behavior – and worse – from her customers. But as soon as she had stomped down the stairs to quiet things down, the bartender noticed a distinct edge to her body language. His smile disappeared completely when she stepped to the doors of the saloon and he realized she intended to go out into the evening alone.
“Miss Kitty?” he asked carefully, uneasy about her leaving, but just as unsure about stopping her.
She stopped, hands on the doors. “What?”
“Where you goin’?”
“Why?” she retorted, her usual soft deference turning hard.
flinched. Surely she knew what could
happen. Despite the order Matt Dillon
had brought to it,
Hesitant to bring up the obvious, and certainly painful, reminder of that all-too-recent trauma, he hedged, “Well, it’s getting late. You could be – molested.”
of the expected shadow passing across her smooth features, Kitty’s brow rose,
and she laughed, sarcasm sharp in her voice.
“Really?” she cracked, then, with a slap, pushed through the
He stared after her a moment, confused. It almost sounded as if she wanted to be molested. But surely that didn’t make sense –
He stopped, the suspicion of comprehension derailing his train of thought, and he let his eyes track to the upstairs hallway. It had not been more than an hour before that she and Marshal Dillon had stolen away for a private dinner. Sam had been in her employ long enough not to expect either of them again until morning. Her exit – alone – had taken him by surprise. Perhaps the marshal had already left, slipping unobtrusively down the back stairs, called away to tend to the ubiquitous duties of his office. It had happened before, and would certainly account for her frustration.
It was, of course, no secret in Dodge that Matt Dillon and Kitty Russell were a couple. In fact, even the “respectable” citizens of the town seemed to accept them almost as easily as they accepted men and women who had officially stood before a preacher. Maybe they realized that the marshal and his woman had a bond as strong as – or stronger than – most married people.
Nevertheless, the two generally maintained an emotional distance in public, only rarely emerging from behind the mask of friendship. But Sam, in his capacity as right hand man to the most successful woman in town, had – voluntarily and sometimes involuntarily – been granted glimpses into what hinted at much deeper and more passionate intimacies.
He had seen the subtle touches, the casual caresses, had heard the teasing flirtations, the quiet entreaties. Not that those moments were exclusively his. He bet Doc and Festus, and perhaps even Newly and Burke, had witnessed similar interactions. But Sam knew other things, as well.
He knew the
marshal had a key to the
His eyes moved back to the saloon doors, still swinging rhythmically from their rough push. Crimps and Doolin were busy shaking like shaggy dogs to rid themselves of the excess ale that the frustrated saloon owner had emptied over them. When they looked at him, askance, he could only offer a shrug and toss them a bar towel to share.
“Why don’t you fellas call it a night?” he suggested, his eyes sending the message to the saloon girl who was with them that her evening was over, too.
The two plunked down a few dollars to cover the battered chairs and shuffled out together.
“Is Miss Kitty all right?” Sadie asked, genuine concern in her voice. Kitty treated her girls well, and they liked her.
Sam shrugged, having no intention of discussing Miss Kitty’s emotional state with the young lady. “I’m sure she’s fine.”
Her eyes glanced upward toward the private rooms. “Did something happen? I thought that she and the marshal – “
“That’s not our affair,” he told her, not even stumbling at his turn of phrase. With a tilt of his chin, he gently dismissed her.
“Good night, Sam,” she returned, taking the hint with enough grace to keep the moment from becoming too awkward. Throwing a cloak over her bare shoulders, she stepped out onto the boardwalk.
bartender stood quietly for a moment, listening, not sure what he thought he
would hear. The
marshal’s distinctive footsteps on the planks, perhaps. His stride was easy to recognize: firm and
sure, but just a bit uneven. The limp
that had been imperceptible when he was younger had claimed a more pronounced
hold on his gait in recent years, and he had given up trying to hide it. Sam wondered if even Doc knew just how many
times Dillon had been wounded in the course of his service to the law. He bet Kitty knew. He had watched her eyes follow her man as he
Of course, if anyone could take care of herself it was Kitty Russell. She had proven that on many, many occasions. Still, Sam knew the marshal considered her protection a priority, and the bartender willingly accepted his own role as surrogate guardian in Dillon’s absence.
Perhaps that was what had hurt the most when Jude Bonner took her. He had been unable to fulfill his promise to the marshal, unable to protect her. In fact, just the opposite had happened – she had protected him and the others by sacrificing herself.
It had been one of those rare occasions when Kitty had publicly acknowledged her relationship with Matt Dillon. Upon Bonner’s threat to kill Sam and the others if they didn’t produce the marshal’s woman, she had not hesitated to step forward and boldly proclaim, “I’m the lady.” Just thinking about that time gnawed at Sam’s gut, pushed the nausea into his throat.
The vision of them parading her into town, battered and abused, then brutally shooting her down right there in front of everyone still haunted him. But maybe just as hard to witness was the look on Matt Dillon’s face when he flung open the door of Doc’s office and saw her lying on the table. It stunned them all to see the usually unflappable marshal visibly shaken as he stopped near the examining table, speaking to Doc in a voice broken and strained. Sam and the others had courteously stepped out the door, but not before they watched the strong, tall man sink to his knees beside to her.
She had survived, thank God. Somehow, she had found the strength to keep going, to gain the victory over those who had sought to destroy her. And somehow, the marshal had managed not to kill Jude Bonner, although it was a near thing. When the posse had come upon him, Sam was almost certain Dillon was going to smash in the dog soldier’s worthless skull. And he had no doubt that, to the man, not one member of their group would have uttered a word about it.
But the ultimate good in the marshal overrode his fury. Somehow, he was stronger than the moment. Sam had always admired Matt Dillon, but after that, he felt something akin to awe, a feeling that gave him perhaps some minor insight into the complex private man only Kitty Russell was allowed to see. It was that awe that had inspired a loyalty to the marshal almost as strong as the loyalty to Miss Kitty.
And it was that loyalty that drew the bartender up the stairs after Crimps and Dooley had finally stumbled out of the saloon. Of course, the marshal could very well have gone down the back stairs, but if he hadn’t, Sam wondered why Miss Kitty had left so suddenly. As he reached the landing, he thought back over the scene. Whatever had happened, she had been mad – furious, even. If the marshal was still upstairs, Sam figured he could probably use a beer, or maybe a shot of strong whiskey.
Not sure if he really wanted anyone to answer, he let his knuckles rap lightly on the wood, almost relieved that there was no sound beyond it. After a couple of beats, he tried again, a bit more forcefully. No response. Halfway berating himself for continuing, he twisted the knob and eased open the door. The lamps still glowed softly. The fragrant odor of their shared meal still lingered in the air. The smoke of fine brandy wafted across the threshold. A special evening, then, he thought, as if he hadn’t already figured that by the almost girlish anticipation Kitty had shown that afternoon. He wondered what on earth Dillon had done to ruin her mood.
As he allowed one foot to step inside, his eyes scanned from the fireplace to the elegant table. No marshal. Okay. That was that. One more quick check and he would leave. It really wasn’t his business anyway. Braving three more steps, he had almost convinced himself to head back out when he heard the rhythm of soft, even snores coming from the bed.
Another four steps brought him around to see the long, solid body of Marshal Matt Dillon sprawled diagonally on Kitty’s fancy quilt, arms and legs flung out in total occupation of the mattress, looking rather like a chopped redwood that lay in the very configuration in which it had crashed to the forest floor. Considering that this tree still wore boots and vest, Sam figured that the “crash” had not been part of the plan – not at all.
The evening’s scenario became painfully clear. With an amused grimace, the bartender understood what had infuriated Miss Kitty, but he sympathized, nevertheless, with the exhausted marshal, and didn’t envy him the discussion they would most certainly have in the morning.
Dillon looked so peaceful lying there, almost like a little boy – well, big boy – who had played too hard all day and succumbed to the sweet respite of sleep, so unlike the superhuman figure he had to maintain everyday: the strong, giant lawman that no sane person dared cross, the keeper of order, the guardian of their safety. These were heavy burdens, ones that most certainly had to wear on a man. Sam decided he didn’t begrudge the marshal his rest, and figured even Miss Kitty would understand – eventually.
With a fond smile, he contributed his bit to making the man comfortable, grabbing the heel of one large boot and tugging until it pulled free. Dillon did not budge. The next boot protested a bit more, but eventually relinquished its grip and dropped to the floor, as well. The vest would just have to stay on. There was no way Sam was going to haul the big man up in his arms and divest him of that garment. Besides, it certainly didn’t look as if it was keeping him from his rest.
Duty done, he turned to ease out of the room and leave the marshal to his sleep.
“Kitty – ”
The low voice stopped him just a few feet away from the bed, and his eyes widened at the softness of the tone. No, not softness – seductiveness. He had never heard that timbre in Matt Dillon’s voice; probably no one else in Dodge had – except Kitty. Braving a wary glance back, he saw, to his relief, that the marshal’s eyes remained closed, a slight smile curving his lips.
Sam took a few more quiet steps toward the door and had almost made it when the voice groaned again, the color warm and suggestive.
“Mmm – Kitty, that feels good – “
Swallowing, Sam flushed and stared at the marshal, who still slumbered peacefully across the bed. He didn’t have to work too hard to imagine what thoughts floated through Dillon’s brain. The possibility of where the dream could lead was enough to propel him hastily toward the door before he heard or saw anything that was absolutely none of his business. A deep, pleasured moan followed him into the hallway, ending only when he quickly, but quietly, clicked the door closed behind him.
It was not as if he didn’t know what went on in Kitty’s room between the marshal and her. He would have to have been blind – and deaf – not to comprehend a long time ago. But hearing such intimacy in that deep voice brought images to his mind, images that he definitely shouldn’t be having.
Nevertheless, he hung onto them a breath or two before guiltily casting them out.
Jerking up his head, he froze at the sight of Kitty Russell ascending the stairs, her face settled now into softer angles, her shoulders relaxed. She had obviously not been molested on her walk.
“M – Miss Kitty,” he stammered.
Her expression wavered between a smirk and a frown, her eyes flashed past him to the closed door. “Everything okay?”
“Fine, Miss Kitty,” he assured her, trying hard not to flush. “I was just – ah – checking doors before I locked up – “
“Checking doors?” she asked, voice skeptical.
He swallowed. “Yes, ma’am.”
She studied him for a moment, then nodded, the thought of a smile touching her lips. “And everything’s secure?”
After another beat, she pursed her lips and sighed. “Okay.”
“Good night, Miss Kitty,” he offered, relieved.
She paused, her hand on the doorknob. “Good night, Sam.”
He was almost at the landing, home free, off the hook. But something stopped him, and he turned. “Miss Kitty?”
She looked back expectantly, and he faltered, suddenly regretting his impulse. But it was too late. Screwing up his courage, he said softly, “He’s been awake for three days straight.”
The brow came down, the body stiffened, but she didn’t say anything. She didn’t have to. Her snapping eyes told him enough.
Uh oh. Bad impulse. Still, he had committed himself, so he plunged ahead before he lost the courage. “It’s awful hard to fight three days worth of lost sleep.” Then, holding her gaze steadily, he added, “Even if you have a very good reason to try.”
Kitty narrowed her eyes at him for a long moment. Finally, her stance relaxed, and she almost smiled. “He could barely keep his eyes open during dinner.”
And didn’t keep his eyes open after dinner, Sam surmised silently. Seeing the real disappointment on her face, he felt led to make an observation. “You know, I’ve noticed the marshal doesn’t usually need much sleep. When I’ve gone out on posse with him, I’ve seen him catch a couple of hours on the trail and then be up and ready to go.” It was as pointed as he would get, and even that much drew the red to his cheeks.
Kitty stared at him, mouth open, eyebrow rising. “Really?” she asked, but her tone told him she didn’t need an answer.
“Really,” he confirmed anyway, suddenly unable to meet her gaze. With a duck of his head, he decided it was time to go. “Well, good night, Miss Kitty. Sleep well.”
She laughed a bit ruefully and murmured, “I’m sure I will,” before she slipped into her room.
But Sam wasn’t so sure. What he’d told her about Dillon was true. Thinking again about the smile on the big lawman’s face as he dreamed, he looked back fondly toward the closed door.
There might just be a little molesting going on tonight, after all. If the marshal knew what was good for him.
Epilogue: Can You Still Make It Into a Chiffonier?
Spoilers: “A Quiet Day in Dodge”
Disclaimer: These characters are not my creation.
surveyed the empty saloon, it occurred to Sam that the
The clink of a glass made him grimace, and he shot a look toward the stairs, hoping he hadn’t been too loud. More than once that morning, he had found his gaze wandering up the stairs. He’d heard no sounds from Kitty’s quarters since he arrived and smiled at the thought of the two getting their deserved rest – or not.
drew his attention back past the outside doors.
The town was waking. The clopping
of horses, the jingling of wagons, the muffled voices of merchants and
customers vied for dominance in the streets.
Boots thumped down the boardwalk outside the doors, heavy and light,
even and uneven. The
sounds of another day in
Through those familiar noises, though, one in particular caught the bartender’s notice and pulled a quick frown to his face. It had encroached on his thoughts, faint at first, then growing louder as it drew nearer to him. With a keen stab of disappointment, he realized he heard the unmistakable footsteps of Matt Dillon on the wooden planks. It was his usual stride, long but unhurried, the sound of a dutiful marshal making his morning rounds.
Sam’s gaze flashed back up the stairs, then swung back to the outside doors. He was not a man usually prone to profanity, but the implication of the marshal being out and about already brought a curse to his lips. “Damn,” he muttered.
He must have left early, which meant no deserved rest and probably nothing else that would resolve the tension between the two people he cared most about in Dodge. With a touch of guilt, he found himself irritated at Matt Dillon, despite his own defense of the exhausted lawman the night before. If he had been in the marshal’s place –
He stopped himself, embarrassed at the vision that popped into his mind. Besides, it wasn’t any of his business. And maybe he was wrong. Maybe the footsteps didn’t belong to –
But at that
moment, the familiar tall, broad frame passed by the
It was nearly an hour later when she emerged. He watched her descend the stairs, wincing in anticipation of her attitude. Not that she would take it out on him. She was always kind and tactful. Sometimes, though, if her temper was riled, she didn’t bother too much with diplomacy.
“Good morning, Sam,” she greeted casually, carefully, her face composed and unreadable.
“Good morning, Miss Kitty,” he returned, unable to keep his eyes from cutting up toward the balcony. Bravely – or maybe foolishly – he asked, “Did you sleep well?”
But if he had expected any revelation from her response, he was disappointed. “Fine,” she answered vaguely, and after a polite, unrevealing smile, stepped toward the office. “I’m going to work on the books for a while, Sam. I’d rather not be disturbed.”
ma’am,” he agreed, heart heavy for her.
“Uh, Bill Caldwell came by this morning and brought you that last order
She stopped and looked back, expression mild, business-like. “Could you check it against the inventory? Last time he forgot the brandy.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he assured her before she nodded and closed the door behind her.
So that’s how it was. He reminded himself again that it wasn’t his business, but he couldn’t help but wonder a bit at the marshal’s sanity.
Of course, he couldn’t do anything about that. Still, even if he couldn’t magically make her dreams turn out the way she wanted them to, he could do his job and keep her from worrying about work. So he headed down into the cellar to count cases from the drummer’s latest delivery. Bill Caldwell had been a good supplier for the past three years, but recently he had acquired several new – and rather large – accounts, and they had noticed a slight reduction in the quality of service. Kitty was right to second guess the count.
Picking up the ledger and a pencil, he began with the first case, marking off the order as he accounted for them. He couldn’t help but hear Kitty’s soft footsteps echo on the flooring above him and just to the left. She moved across the office, stopped for a moment, then moved again. It gave him comfort to be able to know where she was without crowding her over-protectively. Since Bonner, he’d had to fight the impulse not to hover over her.
He had just reached for a case of whiskey when he heard a second set of footsteps join Kitty’s. He froze for a moment, poised to pound up the stairs to help in case she needed it, but only the low sound of muffled voices followed. The visitor was male, his deeper register easy to distinguish from hers, but they weren’t talking loudly enough for him to make out an identity. Still, he didn’t really worry. Kitty was a busy businesswoman.
didn’t hear anything else from above, he returned to his inventory. Finally, satisfied that
The unexpected crash from above jerked his head up in alarm. “No!” he vowed through gritted teeth. It was not going to happen again. Not again. He would not allow it.
Taking the steps two at a time, he reached the top in time to hear an agonized cry from behind the door: Kitty’s cry. Kitty’s door. It took only another five seconds to wrench the shotgun from its perch behind the bar. He heard a rough scrape on the floor, wood on wood, as if someone had moved a chair or a desk. Sam hadn’t attempted to break down a door in years, but the motion came automatically. Bracing his left leg, he lifted his right one, prepared to kick down the barrier, prepared to protect her whatever the cost, prepared to –
Another cry cracked through the door, but this time he could hear the thick emotion behind it; emotion thick not with distress – he realized suddenly – but with desire.
“Oh, Matt – ”
In mid-kick, he froze, eyes wide; then, off balance, fell back against the hallway wall.
He heaved a breath, impossibly grateful that she had chosen that moment to – well, that she had chosen that moment. If he had managed to break open the door, if he had burst in on them –
His heart pounded, his mouth went dry. Forget the embarrassment he would have caused; much more sobering was the realization that, had he followed through, he would most certainly have ended up sprawled on the floor, plugged dead-center with Matt Dillon’s bullet before the door had shuddered completely open. The awareness drove the strength right out of his legs, and he slid down the wall, closing his eyes in an attempt to regain control over the shocked muscles.
In the moment of quiet, he became aware of the result of his not breaking in on them: uninterrupted, the occupants continued their activities, blissfully unaware of the near disaster. Deep groans mingled with soft cries. Sam closed his eyes and tried to remove himself from the moment, but only succeeded in creating a very vivid picture of what was most certainly happening in that office. When his legs recovered enough to support his weight again, Sam stumbled back to the bar, replacing the gun and moving as close to the outside entrance as he could.
Humming to distract himself from the occasional moan that made it through the wood, he had just finished checking the beer supply when another sound brought his attention back to the doors. Matt Dillon’s walk wasn’t the only distinctive one in Dodge. The familiar clanging of spurs was enough to alert anyone to the imminent arrival of Festus Haggen. Sam looked up as the trail-weary deputy pushed into the saloon.
“Morning, Festus,” he greeted rather loudly, forcing himself not to look toward the office door. “You just get back?”
“Yep,” Festus answered, as he jingled up to the bar. “I’m a tellin’ ya it’s a fur piece longer ta Hayes than ya think. Newly n’ me jest now rode in and I’m a lookin’ fer Matthew. Hev you eyeballed him ennytime today?”
Matthew? Matthew who?
He concentrated on wiping an area of the bar that was already spotless. “He walked by here a little while ago, Festus. Morning rounds, looked like.” He told himself that was the truth, and that he shouldn’t feel guilty for only providing part of it.
“Wael, I hope he got hisself some sleep,” the deputy said, cocking his head. “I knowed he wuz pure tuckered out yesterdee when Newly an’ me took at’ thar prisoner to Hayes fer him. I figgered I’d find him flat out on his bunk in th’ jailhouse.”
“You didn’t,” Sam guessed easily.
“Don’t look like his bunk wuz mussed a bit.” The other man shook his head and pushed his tattered hat back, exposing a ragged thatch of dark hair. “Miz Kitty around?”
Kitty? Kitty who?
“Uh, well, she’s, uh, she’s in the office,” Sam supplied, then hastily added, “working.”
“I orda say good mornin’ to her – “ he decided, stepping down the bar.
Festus turned, frowning. “What’s wrong with ya, Sam? I jest wanna say hello.”
He scratched for a coherent answer. “She’s – she made me promise not to disturb her. She’s, uh, she’s behind on the books.” The deputy should have recognized that as a flat-out lie. Kitty Russell was never behind on the books.
Fortunately, Festus seemed oblivious to his panic and just scratched absently at his beard. “Oh, well, mebbe I’ll jest go on down ta the jailhouse an’ catch a hour or two of sleep.”
“Why don’t you do that?” Sam agreed, trying to not sound too eager for him to be on his way.
“Hate ta do it, though, ‘till I find Matthew – “
He was headed toward the doors, but another scuff from Kitty’s office stopped him. Sam flinched, eyes widening at the sound, all too similar to the scrape he had heard as he prepared to break down the door. Only this time, it continued in a consistent, rather rhythmic pattern. With a soft gasp, he realized it was the office desk.
Festus squinted toward the door. “What in tarnation is that?”
“What is what?” Sam asked, then winced at the feeble attempt.
“That thar scrapin’ noise.”
The desk jerked again, a hard, quick sound, followed by a grunt. Sam scrambled for an explanation. “Uh – I think Miss Kitty’s moving some furniture around.”
The deputy nodded. “Mebbe we orta hep her,” he pondered. “Sounds like she’s havin’ a hard time.”
The bartender pursed his lips. That was most likely exactly what was happening. “You look right thirsty, Festus,” he said quickly. “Been riding all night. You could use a drink, I’ll bet.”
The deputy hesitated. “Well – “
“Miss Kitty won’t do anything foolish.” Then again, maybe she already had. “We’ll both help her in a minute.”
“I am a bit parched – “ the deputy agreed.
For once grateful that Festus wanted to mooch a drink, Sam heartily concurred. “Sure you are. Let me get you a beer.”
“Well, now I’m much obliged, Sam.”
“It is much too early in the day to imbibe!”
They both turned, faces shocked at the sight of Edsel Pry peering sourly at them from just over the top of
the swinging doors. The pious old woman,
who had given the marshal such misery the day before, had never darkened the
door of the
“Ma’am,” he greeted politely, exchanging bemused glances with Festus. “How are you this morning?” he asked pleasantly, ignoring her warning of temperance.
“Considering I was accosted and almost suffocated just twenty-four hours ago – “ she began as she stepped gingerly inside.
The desk grated another a few inches across the floor in the office. Sam plunked down a whiskey glass to cover the noise. “Yes, ma’am.”
“I am attempting to ascertain the whereabouts of Marshal Dillon,” she announced primly.
Festus’ brow rose.
“He walked by here a while ago,” Sam told her quickly. “I haven’t seen him since.” Heard him maybe, but not seen.
“I wanted to inform him that I am about to send that telegram to my good friend the Attorney General and would like to afford him an opportunity to make amends before that occurred.”
“He’ll be plum tickled ta hear that.” Sarcasm sharpened Festus’ tone.
“Mister Haggen, I do not believe that I was addressing you – “
With a muted crash, something fell in the office.
“What was that?” Ms. Pry asked, eyes narrowing.
Sam opened his mouth to give her the same line he gave Festus, but the deputy beat him to it. “Oh, Miz Kitty’s movin’ some furniture,” he explained easily, drawing a long sip on his beer.
“Well, yeah.” Then he seemed to become aware of her glare and added, “But I’m a gonna hep her terrekly. Jest as soon as I git my muscles liquefied back up.”
There were several scrapes in a row, followed by another cry from Kitty. Festus thunked down his drink and headed toward the office.
“Festus!” Sam called.
“Didn’t ya hear that, Sam? Miz Kitty’s havin’ trouble. She might need our hep.”
“I don’t think she needs our help, Festus,” Sam assured him.
“How d’ya know? That thar furniture coulda fell on her an’ busted – “
“I think everything’s fine. Maybe we could just knock – “
Aghast, Festus scolded, “Sam, where’s yer chiverry? Ifn a lady’s in need ah hep, it’s a feller’s duty ta be seein’ to her, dontcha know.”
“Well, yeah,” Sam agreed, “but I don’t think Miss Kitty really wants – “
Thankfully, before he was forced into blocking the door, it opened, and Kitty Russell stepped out into the main room. She stopped short, her eyes widening at the sight of the three people staring back at her, but she recovered almost immediately and smiled. Despite her calm, it was not difficult to notice that her face was flushed, her hair a bit scattered. Sam thought he saw the reddish tint of whisker burn on her neck.
“Miz Kitty, you arright?” Festus asked, frowning.
“Why, sure, Festus,” she answered easily, tucking back a strand of hair. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
His spurs jingled loudly as he crossed the floor. “Well, Sam here said – “
But before he could finish, the door opened wider and the familiar broad shoulders of Matt Dillon emerged. Sam studied him a moment. He held his hat in his hand, which allowed his thick hair, way past due for a trim, to spill over his forehead in a tangle of waves. He had managed to tuck most of his shirt back into his trousers, but Kitty seemed to have missed a couple of buttons, and the bartender tried not to stare at the smear of lip rouge visible on his exposed chest. He wondered if the other two noticed.
“Matthew!” Festus exclaimed, then turned to Sam. “Why didn’t ya tell me Matthew wuz a hepin’ Miz Kitty move that furniture?”
Dillon’s eyes narrowed, darting between Sam and his deputy. “Furniture?” he asked, voice shaded with suspicion.
“I wuz headed in ta hep,” Festus explained, waving his hand vaguely, “but Sam here saw how parched I wuz after my ride and all but set on me ta have a drink first. If I’d a knowd you wuz hepin’ her, I wouldna worried sa much.”
“Furniture?” the marshal repeated.
Clearing his throat pointedly, Sam interjected, “Uh – yes, sir. That – uh – that desk you were helping Miss Kitty move. It was – uh – kinda loud.”
His eyes caught Kitty’s, and he marveled at her poker face. She returned his gaze blandly. The marshal, however –
no arguing that Matt Dillon was a cool character – everyone in the state of
But now Sam watched that coolness melt with the flame of realization. The heat that swept across the strong features turned the marshal’s cheeks crimson before rushing down his chest. Sam couldn’t resist a wink, and fought not to laugh when Dillon dropped his Stetson.
“Marshal?” Mrs. Pry observed, her face screwing up as she peered at him more closely, “you look flushed. I told you yesterday you needed to take better care of yourself.”
“Ya do look a mite feverish,” Festus noted, eying the marshal as he picked up the hat. “If’n yer sick, ya orda not be movin’ furniture around. That kin take a heap outta a man. Sounded like you n’ Miz Kitty wuz havin’ a hard time. Ya shoulda called me.”
Dillon merely stared at him.
Gliding closer to the nonplussed man, Kitty assured Festus, “Oh, Matt moved things around just fine all by himself.” Somehow she kept her face perfectly straight.
“We wuz worried,” Festus told her in complete seriousness. “Sounded mighty like you needed hep.”
It took all the control Sam possessed not to choke right here.
Dillon cleared his throat, regaining at least a semblance of his usual control. “Kitty helped,” he said, face innocent. “She helped – a lot.”
Kitty grinned. “I did, didn’t I?”
“Marshal,” Mrs. Pry interrupted, oblivious to the underlying exchange, “if you spent as much time catching criminals as you did moving furniture, maybe the decent citizens of Dodge wouldn’t have to put up with such shinnanigans as I did yesterday.”
Apparently overcoming his embarrassment, Dillon drew a breath to respond. “Mrs. Pry,” he began, but Kitty flowed in between them and interrupted.
“The marshal was just helping me this morning, Mrs. Pry,” she said sweetly. “Like Sam said, I needed a desk moved.”
“And the marshal is good at moving furniture?” Mrs. Pry wanted to know.
Her smile widening, Kitty said, “Oh, he’s very good.”
Dillon’s gaze caught Kitty’s, and Sam was surprised they didn’t all just burst into flames from the heat that threatened to combust between the two.
Mrs. Pry seemed to be reconsidering her priorities. “I have a chiffonier that needs moving,” she announced.
The marshal’s head jerked up, and Sam had to turn away at the look of sheer horror that flashed across his face.
“You do?” Kitty asked, her lips pressed together hard.
“I suppose I could reconsider my complaint to the Attorney General,” Mrs. Pry decided. “That is if you can spare an afternoon to rearrange some furniture for me.”
Dillon paled, looking as if he might be sick. “Not if you were the last woman on earth,” he muttered.
“What was that, Marshal?” Mrs. Pry asked.
Kitty jumped in. “Uh – he’s promised to move some more of my furniture later today. But I’ll talk to him about it.”
The older lady frowned. “Well, just so you know that I still have that telegram to – ”
“Your friend the attorney general,” the marshal finished for her.
Seeing the need for a little diversion, Sam said, “How about a little brandy to settle your nerves, Mrs. Pry?”
She opened her mouth in indignation. “I wouldn’t dream of – “ Then Sam set the bottle of amber liquid on the counter, and she cleared her throat. “Well, maybe just one, for medicinal purposes you understand. Since I survived such an ordeal yesterday.”
“For medicinal purposes,” Kitty agreed amicably.
The all watched as she downed the drink in one gulp, nodded curtly, and stalked out of the bar.
Clicking his tongue, Festus declared, “Ah guarantee that woman is as ornery – “
“Uh, Festus,” Kitty cut in.
“You must be exhausted, riding all that way to Hayes and back.”
The deputy tilted his head. “I am right tuckered.”
The saloon owner patted his arm. “Why don’t you go on and get some sleep. I’m sure Matt will take care of things here.”
“I wuz thinkin’ on it.” He turned to the marshal. “At arright with you, Matthew?”
“Oh fine, fine,” Dillon agreed quickly.
“Well, I’ll be to the jailhouse if’n ya need me.”
After the jingling of spurs had died down, and only the three of them remained, Kitty placed a hand on the marshal’s shoulder and offered in a warm, husky voice, “How ‘bout a drink, Cowboy?” Sam thought how magnificent it would be for a man to hear that tone directed at him.
With a sigh, Dillon settled his hat on his head and tugged it over his eyes, avoiding the barkeeper’s gaze. “I’d – uh – I’d better check on things since Festus is taking a siesta.”
She didn’t seem too disappointed, but let her hand close on his shirt for a moment. “Remember that promise,” she reminded. “I have a few things upstairs that need – rearranging.”
The marshal reddened and grinned at the same time.
“’Course, if you’d rather help Mrs. Pry – “
The grin collapsed into a grimace. “Kitty, I swear that’s not even halfway funny.” With a grunt, he headed to the swinging doors, but paused just before he pushed through them. “You’ll have that furniture ready to move?” he asked, blue eyes teasing.
“Oh, yeah,” she assured him, a twinkle in her own eyes.
Sam watched him leave and listened to the solid footsteps until they faded. Seeing that Kitty still gazed at the spot the marshal had just left, he gathered up whiskey glasses to wipe out.
Finally, she sighed and turned, regarding him warmly. “Thank you, Sam.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he shrugged.
“Sam – “
She paused, smiling. “Okay. But thank you, anyway.” With much more energy than she had the previous night, she sprang up the stairs, but stopped three from the top and turned back to the barkeeper. “You were right, by the way.”
He looked up. “Right?”
“The marshal doesn’t need much sleep.”
Sam stared at her a moment, then swallowed, his face heating.
Her smile softened and grew private, intimate. “Not much at all,” she whispered, almost to herself, as she continued up the stairs and into her room.
bartender let his own smile tug at his lips, and listened as the marshal’s
footsteps sounded again on the boardwalk, denoting his path back toward the
jail. In a few hours, the world would be
alive with dancing and singing and gambling and fighting, the sounds of another
looked around the empty room again, he remembered his earlier comparison of the
And he wouldn’t change a thing. He didn’t figure Matt Dillon would either. Whistling, he picked up another glass to polish.
Up and Ready
A Gunsmoke Story
Companion Piece to “If a Tree Falls Before Bedtime”
By Amanda (MAHC)
Spoilers: “Hostage!;” “Quiet Day in Dodge”
Rating: Mature (definitely)
Summary: The part of “If a Tree Falls” that you didn’t see.
Author’s Notes: I promised this to Piglet a long time ago. It’s the “missing scene” from “If A Tree Falls Before Bedtime,” and it’s for all of you who like it hot. Here’s your warning! Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I didn’t create these characters.
Kitty Russell had been halfway up the stairs to Doc’s office before she realized the deeper significance of Sam’s warning: “You could be – molested.”
Maybe it was a good sign that it took her that long to understand he was thinking of Jude Bonner. An involuntary shudder ran through her – as it always did – when that name brushed her thoughts. It pleased her, though – the fact that she had found humor, sarcastic humor anyway, in the comment before she heard fear. The smile crept to her lips, a warm swell of fondness for the man who was more friend than employee.
A soft rap
of Doc’s door went unanswered. A
stronger rap produced the same results.
No Doc. He could be anywhere, of
course. Maybe even
gone all night delivering a baby or sitting up with a feverish patient. Sighing, she plopped down on the top step, chin in hands, and contented herself with observing the
comings and goings on
It was not that she was mad at Matt – not exactly. She knew he was tired, knew he had a rough day – or several days. But she couldn’t help it. After standing her up over the picnic, and promising to make it up properly over dinner – and especially after dinner – how could he just fall asleep?
Of course, she admitted to herself that her disappointment might be sharpened by the rather unflattering idea that her charms had held no power over him. He chose sleep over her. No, that wasn’t fair. She doubted he actually chose sleep. Rather, sleep chose him.
Shaking her head, she began a weary climb up the stairs, no anticipation of what-might-have-been lightening her step. A noise from the upper hallway stopped her momentarily. For a second, her heart raced, thinking it might be Matt, but then Sam emerged from behind the curtain that separated her quarters from the rest of the rooms.
She narrowed her eyes curiously, suspicion tickling her thoughts. “Sam?”
He flinched uncharacteristically. “M – Miss Kitty.” Was he stuttering?
“Fine, Miss Kitty.” His words offered reassurance; his demeanor contradicted them. “I was just – ah – checking doors before I locked up – “
“Checking doors?” The suspicion bloomed into an outright theory.
She debated whether to be angry with him or to be grateful that he cared enough to check on her – and Matt. After a pause, she nodded. “And everything’s secure?”
Toying with the amusing prospect of playing the game a little longer, she finally decided to let it drop. “Okay.”
It took every ounce of control not to burst into laughter at the relief that flushed across the bartender’s worn features.
“Good night, Miss Kitty,” he wished, passing her.
She looked up at the door, knowing an evening of sleep was the only thing that awaited her. “Good night, Sam.”
His footsteps reached the stairs; then, she heard him stop and turn. “Miss Kitty?’
Curiously, she looked at him, watching him fight himself. Finally, he took a breath and said, “He’s been awake for three days straight.”
Involuntarily, a red haze swept across her vision, renewing the anger and frustration that had propelled her from the saloon earlier. She knew very well Matt had been awake.
“It’s awful hard to fight three days worth of sleep,” Sam continued quickly as his eyes met hers. “Even if you have a very good reason to try.”
In a moment of self-revelation, Kitty had to admit that some of her angriest moments came when she knew someone else was right – and she was wrong. A smile pulled at her mouth. “He could barely keep his eyes open during dinner,” she revealed, her wrath at Matt fading. And in that instant, she dropped all anger, a sudden, shameful feeling washing through her. Poor Matt, exhausted from the trail, harassed by Mrs. Pry and who knew how many others before he could get any sleep, and finally snubbed by his own woman for something he had no control over.
“You know,” Sam offered unexpectedly. “I’ve noticed the marshal doesn’t usually need much sleep. When I’ve gone out on posse with him, I’ve seen him catch a couple of hours on the trail and then be up and ready to go.”
Kitty felt her jaw drop. Had Sam said “up and ready?” Sam? “Really?” she managed to ask.
His gaze dropped. “Really.” Ducking his head, he murmured, “Well, good night, Miss Kitty. Sleep well.”
Touched, but accepting reality, she laughed and muttered, “I’m sure I will,” then eased through the door.
Sam really was quite dear, she decided, still not completely sure she had heard him right.
Matt still lay where he had fallen an hour or so before, a mighty tree whose limbs spread out all over her bed. She sighed, contemplating how she could wriggle even half her body in there next to him. But she was damned if she would sleep on the settee.
She noted his boots lay on the floor, neatly placed by the nightstand. Sam, she realized. Nothing else had been removed, though. She chuckled at the thought of the bartender trying to divest the marshal’s long frame of clothes. Without Matt’s help, she wasn’t even sure she could do it.
But she was going to try. The pants would go first, she figured. All she had to do was unbuckle and unbutton, then tug. The unbuckling part was easy – she’d had years of practice at it. And the unbuttoning was downright fun. He stirred slightly at her touch, his lips turning up in a smile. She smiled back, wondering what he was dreaming, hoping it was about her and not one of those past outlaw girlfriend that seemed to crop up from time to time. Under her breath, she muttered a friendly warning to him.
Pulling the pants down proved a bit more strenuous, mainly because she couldn’t push his 240-pound frame up enough to free them. Finally, after some intricate maneuverings, she had them and his underwear at his knees, after which they cooperated nicely right along.
She turned, then, to his shirt, her fingers deftly slipping the buttons through their holes, baring his broad chest for her viewing. When she had reached about halfway down, she heard him moan softly.
“Lee – “
Kitty stopped her motions and frowned. Lee?
“Sweetheart – “ Matt moaned again.
A hot rush of anger swept over her along with a sickening jolt to her stomach. She had been only half joking with herself before, but it seemed now as if her fearful thoughts had been right.
“Oh, Lee – “ he groaned.
Furious, Kitty snatched her fingers away from his chest and stood to storm out of the room, her heart and pride sharply wounded. But before she could take a step away from the bed, a strong hand closed on her wrist and tugged her back. She gasped as she turned to encounter a pair of very blue and very mischievous eyes.
“Matt!” It was an involuntary cry.
He grinned boldly, considering how much trouble he was in. “Where ya’ goin’, Red?” he asked, voice low and husky.
Realization struck her with a clash of anger and relief. “Matthew Dillon!” she scolded. “That was absolutely the meanest – “
But she didn’t get any further before his hand pulled her down, and her body fell on top of his, and his lips silenced her with a deep, slow-burning kiss. She felt his heat sizzle through her skin, igniting a fire within her that could only be doused one way.
When his lips left hers to trail down her neck, she tried to muster the ire she had felt moments before, but the effort was weak. “You are – incorrigible,” she told him, her tone contradicting her words.
His teeth tugged on her earlobe, sending shivers through her. “If that means I want you desperately,” he whispered, “you’re right.”
“No, it means – “ she began, but suddenly lost her train of thought as his hands slid over her hips and pressed her against his hardness. “It means – oh, who the hell cares what it means – “ Giving up, she found his lips again and ran her own hands down his shirtfront, ripping the remaining buttons off.
“Hey!” he protested, pulling away just a bit.
Sitting up and lifting the skirt of her dress, she straddled him, fitting their hips together so that his eager erection pushed against the moist lace of her lingerie. “What were you saying?”
He groaned. “Uh – nothing – nothing at all – “
“Oh, Matt,” she murmured, softly and voluntarily this time.
“You gonna stop there?” he wondered.
“You want me to stop there?”
“You get the vest; I’ll get the shirt,” she proposed.
It didn’t take him five seconds to shrug out of the outer garment. Kitty reached for the remaining piece of clothing, pushing it slowly off his wide shoulders, touching much more of his skin than the material of his shirt. She let her hand rest at the center of his broad chest, enjoying the beat of his heart. Her fingers didn’t stop there, though. Instead, they teased over the muscles of his stomach and lower until they danced across his groin, the bare flesh swollen and hard and surging beneath her touch.
Kitty ran her fingers down his generous length, just barely skimming along the hot satin skin. Looking up, she felt her heart race as his eyes burned into her gaze. His breath caught, and he arched toward her when she let her hand grip him just a bit more firmly. It took considerable control for her not to fall onto him at that moment and take him inside her, take him deeper than any other man had even been.
Matt knew he had been her only man for years now, just as she knew she had been his only woman, but sometimes she wondered if any of his former girlfriends had ever found another lover so fulfilling. She pushed back the pang of jealousy that always came with the thought of him being with anyone else. He was hers now, and she never doubted that.
He caught her hands and, breath labored, touched her cheek. “Kitty, I need to tell you something before – “
She shook her head. “Matt – “
“No. Let me finish.”
Nodding, she reluctantly sat back.
Chagrin colored his strong features, giving him that little-boy expression that she never had been able to resist. “Kitty, I didn’t mean to, well, I really didn’t mean to – I’m – I’m sorry I fell asleep.”
She opened her mouth to grant forgiveness, but he silenced her with a tender kiss.
When he drew back, he continued. “And I’m sorry about the picnic.” She smiled as a petulant frown crossed his face. “I hear Doc enjoyed it, though,” he noted, with an endearing expression amazingly close to a pout.
“Oh, he did,” she assured him wickedly. He was not forgiven enough to avoid a little needling. “Especially the pie.”
He frowned. “Yeah.” But then his frown softened and his voice grew serious. “Kitty – “
“I know, Cowboy. I know.” She wouldn’t make him apologize for doing his job – not this time. “Maybe I was a little hard on you yesterday,” she conceded. “You’d had a rough time.”
His eyes brightened at the prospect of mercy.
“Going three days without sleep, bringing in a prisoner, getting stabbed, chasing after a delinquent child, locking Mrs. Pry in a safe – “
“I didn’t lock her in there,” he protested. “I got her out.”
“She blames you anyway. Did you see her face – “
He grimaced. “Don’t remind me.”
“Still,” she said, pitch rising a little in only partially-feigned hurt, “I had been counting on that picnic. And you promised that tonight – “
“Tonight’s not over,” he pointed out.
“That’s very true.” She let her eyelashes bat playfully. “So Marshal, in that case, how about you make everything up to me, huh?”
Intensity darkened his eyes. “I think I can do that,” he agreed, his hands sliding to her waist and turning her so that she lay beneath him. “Just don’t mention Edsel Pry again.”
She laughed. That she could guarantee.
“You seem to be entirely overdressed, though,” he observed. Then, without further warning, he took his large hands and ripped the fine material of her dress right down the middle.
“Turnabout’s fair play.”
“That was just a shirt. This dress cost – “
As his lips flickered over the swell of one breast, her words melted into a moan.
“You were saying?” he mumbled against her glowing skin.
“Um, I was – nevermind – “
With his help, she wriggled out of the remains of her once-expensive gown and lay beneath him, clad only in the scant lingerie she had selected earlier in anticipation of the evening. The fire in his blue eyes confirmed her choice.
“Kitty,” he breathed, his hands gliding over her exposed skin. “You are beautiful.”
She blushed. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t told her that before, but Matt Dillon was not often effusive. That made it all the more special when he was inspired to gush over her – or at least it was gushing for him.
His eagerness had already provided sufficient lubricant. Knowing he couldn’t handle too much teasing, she slid her panties off and pulled him back toward her, unable to suppress her own moan as he teased her aching body.
“Oh, Matt,” she murmured when he clutched at her thighs and rubbed against her, close, but not entering. Her body ached for him, begged for more, but he held strong just at the point of pleasure.
Finally, unable to voice her need, she grabbed his firm hips and pulled him hard against her. He smiled down at her, but the tightness of his mouth revealed his own struggle for control.
“Kathleen,” he whispered, and allowed himself to push in slowly, just the tip, before he pulled back out.
“Matt!” Frustration found her voice as she scolded and begged at once.
But he slid in only part of the way again and withdrew, repeating the motion several times before she couldn’t take it any more, wrapped her legs around him and arched up hard. They both gasped as he thrust in fast and deep, the pleasure and pain igniting an inferno inside her.
After that, neither of them could slow down the inevitable. He let himself go, and she reveled in the completeness of his thrusts, intense and purposeful.
They were both too far gone now for the usual finesse, the tender foreplay, the teasing caresses. Through her haze of desire, she watched his handsome face as he gritted his teeth and pulled out almost all the way, then plunged back in, all pretense of tenderness gone. They both felt the drive, the need. She writhed beneath him, her legs curled around his waist, his hips pounding against hers, hitting deep and hard with every thrust. Kitty arched her back and lifted her hips to meet his, her body throbbing now with her own need, need he had created, need only he could satisfy.
She wondered vaguely if Sam were still downstairs, if he could hear their passionate cries. Then she decided she didn’t really care. Let all of Dodge hear them tonight. Her hands grabbed at Matt’s wide shoulders, tugging him down so that she could feel the light spread of hair on his chest brush across her breasts. The surge inside her indicated he had appreciated the move, as well.
His voice, hoarse and strained, betrayed his failing control. “Kitty, are you – “
“I’m ready,” she assured him, knowing that was an understatement.
Somehow, he held back a few more moments, running his long fingers over her nipples and bending to tease them with his teeth and tongue. The shock waves zapped their way straight to the deepest point of his penetration, and she felt the uncontrollable spasms grip her body with relentless and overwhelming persistence. Calling his name, she threw back her head and bucked against him, every wild contraction squeezing around him in exquisite agony.
He groaned, and she felt him swell even thicker, heard the quickness of his breath, and knew that he was about to go over. Tightening her legs around him, she concentrated on tightening inside her body as well. It was the final straw.
With a harsh grunt, he thrust in and froze, his arms, usually steady and strong, trembling as he held his body in position to explode inside her. She felt the contractions grip him, the involuntary pulses sweep through him until the liquid heat burst out and burned deep within her. Over and over, his release continued, filling her with waves of pleasure until he gave a final push and dropped onto her, lingering spasms pumping randomly while he remained inside her.
Kitty woke to find herself alone in the bed, but the evidence of the night’s activities remained. Blushing, she thought of Sam’s comment and decided he was absolutely right. Once Matt had a couple of hours sleep in him he was good to go. In fact, he had been good to go three times before they finally collapsed into each other’s arms for what remained of the night.
He had certainly made things up to her. Even now, her muscles protested from their hours of rigor, and deep inside she ached pleasantly.
“Matt?” she murmured, missing him already.
The bed dipped, and she felt lips brush hers. “Morning.”
“What on earth are you doing up already?” she managed, sleep slurring her words.
His voice was light. “That’s not how you felt last night. You seemed to want me up – a lot.”
One peek showed her he was already dressed. Damn.
“Rounds,” he explained, sighing. “Besides, I figured you might need the rest.”
“And you don’t?”
He just grinned. “Maybe later.”
“Well, Sam said you didn’t need – ” she started before she caught herself.
His eyes narrowed. “Sam said I didn’t need what?”
She scrambled for a save. “Sam said you didn’t need to worry. He’d open up today.”
“Sam always opens up,” he knew. A suspicious frown pulled his brow down. “And by the way, how’d you get my boots off last night? You usually need my help – “
She caught his eye and held his gaze for a long moment. Finally, she asked, “Do you really want to know who took off your boots last night?”
Face flushing with comprehension, he stared at her.
“And do you really want to know what Sam said?” she pushed.
“No. I don’t think I do,” he finally decided, then leaned in to give her a soft, brief kiss. “I’ll see you later, Kitty.”
But as he braced an arm to push up from the bed, she cupped one hand around the back of his neck and pulled him down for another kiss, deeper and harder and hotter. At the same time, her other hand rested in his lap. Before the kiss had ended, she felt the expected pulse against her palm.
“Kitty.” The word fell somewhere between a scolding and a plea, but he didn’t try to move her away. Encouraged, she began to stroke below while her mouth moved on his above.
“Kitty – ” This time it was a groan. Somehow, he managed to pull back from the bed. Her eyes twinkled mischievously as she saw the uncomfortable-looking bulge beneath his pants.
Taking a shaky breath, he said, “I’ve – I’ve gotta do rounds. Festus – uh – Festus and Newly’ll be back, then they’ll – “
She reached out and stroked him again, bolder this time, and he closed his eyes.
“Ungh, Kitty, if you don’t stop – “
“You don’t know what you’re missing,” she told him, pushing hard against him.
“Oh, I do,” he groaned. “Believe me, I do.” Prying open his eyes, he looked at her. “What if – what if I stop by in about an hour after my rounds?”
“Come back upstairs? There may be folks in the bar.” She squeezed slightly.
His breath sucked up quickly. “I’m tellin’ ya, if ya keep doin’ that, I’m gonna have to change clothes again.”
She grinned, delighted with the control she had over him. “Come back in an hour. I’ll have you another set.”
“It would be too obvious.”
“What about my office?”
“Your office?” he frowned. “Kitty, that’s too close to business. Anybody could – “
But her hand ran over him again, pressing hard; her lips nibbled at his neck. She watched his will crumble.
“Office – “ he gasped. “Okay.”
Abruptly, she withdrew her touch, almost laughing at the pain that tightened his eyes. “You are an evil woman, Kathleen Russell,” he accused, standing awkwardly.
She didn’t contradict him, but simply advised, “You might want to wait a minute or two before you go out in public.”
He could only nod.
She smiled as she watched him lean against the doorframe for a good five minutes, trying to calm his uncooperative body. Finally, he was successful enough to meet the world without displaying his significant attributes.
“Your office,” he verified hoarsely, looking back at her and tugging on his hat. “One hour.”
“My office. One hour,” she confirmed, already regretting the wait as the door closed behind him.
She hoped they hadn’t been too impetuous. Her office was anything but ideal. Still, somehow that didn’t much matter. In fact, it provided the element of danger, the chance that they might be discovered – not that she really wanted that to happen, but the thought provided guilty excitement.
Then, her practical side nudged into her thoughts. What was she thinking? There wasn’t a bed down there, or even a cot. An office chair and table – which was probably not strong enough to hold them. She shook her head. That left nothing –
But in that moment, another idea pushed in and she grinned, her body tingling in anticipation. That left nothing – except a very sturdy, very functional desk.
Her office. One hour. She lay back on her pillow and sighed.
It would be a long hour.