Summary: The truth is rarely as bad as we imagine it to be. Lou learns that the hard way.
Author's Note: This takes place in the first half of the Season 3 episode, Spies.
He grabbed up the rest of his gear and turned toward the hotel stairs, his sole thought being on finding that nice soft bed and sleeping ‘til supper.
“Are you sure there’s nothin’ else?”
The dulcet tones of an ultra feminine voice washed over his ears, a balm after listening to nothing but the rough sound of men’s and boys’ voices this last week on the trail. Perhaps that’s why he mentally tuned into the conversation going on at the hotel’s front desk.
“Sorry, miss. I just gave the last room to him.”
Kid’s steps slowed at those words, his body already knowing what his brain was going to do and arguing with him over it vehemently. Before his body had a chance to change his mind, he turned back toward the desk and said, “You can have my--”
His voice strangled to a halt as he took in the vision before him. Her long, flowing red locks framed her face like a halo of flames. Their silky smoothness begged for him to bury his hands in their soft depths. Her creamy skin looked like snowy velvet. Her full lips gleamed a luscious pink that begged to be kissed. Her sparking green eyes peered at him curiously through a thick, dark fringe of the longest eyelashes he’d ever seen.
“Excuse me?” she asked softly when he stopped in mid-sentence and just stared. Her voice was even more musical than he’d thought the first time he’d heard it.
Shaking his head like a horse annoyed by a buzzing fly, he tried to gather his wits. Kid reached into his shirt pocket and pulled out the key the hotel clerk had just handed him. Holding it out toward her, he stuttered, “Uh, you can have my… my room. I’ve got another…. another place ta…. sleep.”
He blushed bright red as his imagination suddenly placed her smack in the middle of that sleeping place, clothed only in her chemise and pantaloons, arms opened wide in welcome, her eyes inviting him to join her.
“It’s…. ah… room…..” he trailed off, suddenly unable to remember the number the clerk had told him.
“211,” the clerk put in helpfully. “Room 211. Second floor, first door on the left.”
“Are you sure?” she asked, reaching out hesitantly to take the key from him. “I can--”
“I’m sure,” he interrupted her briskly. Then, more slowly, staring deeply into her eyes, he added, “It’d be my pleasure.”
She broke eye contact and looked away, blushing slightly herself. The sight did something to Kid’s lungs. They seemed to stop working entirely for a moment, then lurched back into operation working at twice their normal speed.
He watched as she took the pen from the clerk and signed the guest book. He sighed deeply, wishing that were him she had wrapped in those beautiful, slender fingers. At least he assumed they were as beautiful as the rest of her perfect form suggested. She wore a pair of buttery soft dark leather gloves.
She put the pen back in its holder and bent down to pick up her carpetbag. Kid rushed to beat her to it. Their hands collided on the handle and he once again found himself completely befuddled. The heat of her hand poured through the soft glove and into him, searing away every ounce of sense in his head.
“I…” she started to say.
“No, please,” Kid said hurriedly, afraid already that she would send him away. “Let me. It’d be my… pleasure.” He blushed as he realized he’d said the same thing yet again. Straightening up, his eyes met hers again and again he felt that drowning sensation as he fell into their green depths. “Uh,” he finally muttered, pointing up the stairs. “It’s this way.”
“Thank you, sir,” she drawled, leading the way toward the stairway. “I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t been so generous.”
“It’s alright,” he said, able to think a little more coherently now that she was turned away from him. A little. “Like I said, I’ve got a place to stay. It’s not the best and I’d thought ta treat myself with a night at the hotel, but…. I’d say you need the room more’n I do.”
He watched her hips swing from side to side as he followed her up the stairs. She was chattering on about the train trip, how long and dusty and exhausting it had been, followed by days in the swaying of the stage and how relieved she was to have a day’s rest in a real bed, instead of the hard cots provided at the staging stations.
As she slowed to a stop in front of his, her hotel room door and turned to face him, he found himself blushing yet again. At this point he’d stopped noticing the heat of his blushes. Another heat, spreading throughout his body, was dominating his thoughts and senses.
She smiled slowly as she looked up at him.
“Oh,” he said, suddenly startled by the thought that she was waiting for him to hand her the carpetbag he clutched in one hand. Handing it over, he suddenly realized if he didn’t do something now he might never see her again. His heart sank into his toes and he knew he couldn’t let that happen.
“Um,” he said as she turned the key in the lock and opened the door. “I’d be honored if you’d join me for dinner tonight. I mean, if you don’t already have plans.”
She laughed slightly, amusement dancing in the emerald windows to her soul.
“No,” she said softly. “I don’t have plans. I’d love to join you for dinner.”
Kid took a half-step backward, surprised she’d agreed so quickly, easily, almost…. eagerly?
“I’ll be back around six,” he suggested diffidently. “If that works for you.”
She nodded quickly. “Six sounds perfect.”
Her soft, southern accent turned the words into a purr that slithered its way down his spine.
“I’ll, uh, wait fer ya down in the lobby,” he said, turning back toward the stairs.
He was just stepping down the first step, when her voice stopped him.
“Excuse me,” she said.
Kid turned to look back at her, glad for any excuse that let him fill his sight with her face and form.
“Might I inquire as to your name, good sir?” she asked, smiling flirtatiously at him. “I can hardly go about calling you Sir Galahad, now can I?”
“Oh,” Kid gasped, realizing suddenly he’d so forgotten his manners as to not introduce himself. “I’m Ezra Sewell, out of Virgnia. But most folks just call me The Kid.”
The vision in green velvet stepped toward him and held out her gloved hand as she said, “I’m Margaret Calhoun, from South Carolina.”
Gingerly taking her leather encased fingers in his much larger, rougher ones, he smiled at her. “A pleasure to make yer acquaintance, ma’am,” he smiled, making a courtly bow low over her hand. “Until this evenin’ then.”
“I’ll be counting the minutes,” she said.
He regretfully released her hand, letting it slide out of his grasp slowly, oh, so, slowly, enjoying every second of sensation. He turned and blindly began to almost skip down the stairs in silent jubilation. When he reached the turn in the stairwell, he turned back to capture one last glimpse of his lady. She still stood at the rail at the top of the stairs, watching after him. Catching his eyes, she smiled and looked away almost shyly, only to quickly peek back in his direction and wave slightly with one hand.
Kid paused to check his hair in the window outside the hotel, carefully slicking back a stray lock of hair. His hair was still damp from his bath. He’d paid a whole fifty cents for it at the bathhouse down the street. Even as he’d washed the dirt and grime of the road off his skin and out of his hair, he’d let the memory of her permeate his pores. He’d reveled in the memory of her smile, the heat of her hand, the sound of her voice, the ultra feminine sway of her body as she moved. Honestly, he’d gotten a bit distracted by his day dreams and had barely had enough time to drop his saddlebags and bedroll at the livery, storing them in the stall with Katy, before rushing over to meet Miss Calhoun for dinner.
Satisfied with his appearance, he straightened his shirt, wishing in vain that he had something nicer with him to wear. She deserved so much more than even his newest, cleanest work shirt. But his suit was back at the home station. He pushed pesky thoughts of what, who, else was back at the home station waiting for his return.
Stepping into the dark interior of the hotel entryway, he smelled her long before he saw her. It was a light, floral scent that bespoke the elaborate gardens of the South they’d both grown up in. He inhaled deeply, looking around to find where she was hiding.
“Are you looking for me?”
He felt her words all the way to the tips of his toes. Turning, he saw her sitting in a plushly stuffed armchair, well shielded from the entrance by a large plant. He moved to her side, holding out one hand.
“Is there anyone else ta be lookin’ fer?” Kid smiled at her. “Cause I don’t see ‘em.”
She reached up with one dainty hand, gloved this time in a white, silk evening glove, and placed her fingertips across his palm, letting him help her to her feet. Once she was safely standing on her own, Kid tucked those precious fingers into the crook of his elbow, holding his other hand over her fingers to make sure they stayed in place, and turned them both toward the door to the hotel’s dining room.
“Are we going to stay here?” she asked curiously.
“I asked around,” he smiled down at the young beauty gracing his arm. “This may not be the only place ta get food in this town, but it’s the best. Hands down. They make a great steak and potato dinner.”
She smiled graciously as he led her to a table and pulled out a chair for her to sink gracefully into. Placing one hand against the corseted slenderness of her stomach, she asked dubiously, “You don’t think that’ll be too heavy for me, do you? I can’t eat all that much, usually. My dear departed mother always used to say I have the appetite of a bird.”
Kid laughed. “Well, it takes a good solid meal to have the energy to survive a day in one of those coaches. ‘Sides, anythin’ you don’t finish, I’ll be happy ta eat fer ya.”
The next hour passed with little notice of the time by either of the young couple. Absorbed in each other they shared stories of family and common origins without a thought for those around them. Eventually, the server took away the last of their empty dishes. Kid had dutifully eaten the half steak Margaret had left on hers. Now, reluctantly, he stood and held out his hand to Margaret.
“Would you care to walk with me?” he asked, unwilling to let the pleasant evening end.
“Oh, I don’t know,” she said, yawning widely. “It’s been a long day and I am awful tired after so much traveling. I’d love to spend more time with you, but I just don’t think I can stay awake.”
Accepting defeat with a grace he didn’t feel, Kid pulled her to his side and headed toward the stairs instead of the front door.
“Let me escort you to your room, then,” he said softly.
“If you insist,” she smiled, snuggling close to his side, perhaps closer than the situation called for. He felt like someone had laid a branding iron, a hot one, along his side from knee to shoulder and he gloried in its searing presence.
Neither said much as they climbed the stairs to her door. They spent the time sneaking glances at their companion, then hurriedly looking away when their eyes collided. At her door, Kid lifted her hand to his mouth, letting his lips find the tender skin of her wrist in a tender kiss.
“I’ll bid you good night then,” he said, standing up. “And hope to see you at breakfast.”
“Oh,” she started, her eyelashes fluttering in attractive concern. “I was hoping I could talk you into checking my room for intruders. I’ve just heard so many stories about the dangers of the West, I won’t be able to get a wink of sleep until I’ve been assured no one’s hiding in my room waiting to deliver a fate worse than death.”
“Sure,” Kid agreed, smiling in relief. He would get to see her for at least a few more minutes.
She turned and quickly unlocked her door, then stepped aside, so Kid, gun drawn, could move ahead of her into the room. He carefully checked beneath the bed and inside the armoire, pausing a moment to inhale deeply the scent wafting from the lavender sachets she’d hung up along with her dresses.
“All safe,” he smiled, turning back to face her as he put his gun back into its holster. “You can sleep soundly.”
He started to move toward the door. As he passed her, she reached out and put a hand on his arm, pausing his forward momentum. Standing on tiptoe, she pressed her cool lips to his hot cheek. They were just as soft and luscious as he’d dreamed. Without thinking about it, he turned his head and captured those ruby red treats with his mouth.
Sinking into the beauty of the kiss, the sort of kiss he’d never felt before, the sort that transported a person as close to heaven as it was possible to get without dying, he didn’t feel her hands moving to the buttons on his shirt. He barely noticed using his own foot to close the door behind them, or the feel of the soft comfort of the feather mattress as they tumbled into the bed in a tangle of limbs. The shiver caused by a soft breeze floating through the partially opened window he attributed to the feel of her fingernails, when had her glove come off anyway?, scraping down his back.
“I love you, Margaret” he whispered into her perfectly shaped, swan-like neck, pulling her soft body close to his. She was exactly the way a woman should be, soft in all the right places. No bulging, hard muscles to confuse a fellow’s concept of femininity were present to disturb his peace. No tears marred this moment.
“I love you, too, Kid,” she whispered, languidly running her fingers through his brown, curly hair.
“I hate to leave you in the morning,” Kid started.
“But you have a job to do,” Margaret murmured. “I could never ask you to go against your conscience or risk your job for me.”
Kid leaned up on one elbow to look down at her, staring deeply into her eyes. “You’ll join me though? We can get married as soon as you get to Rock Creek.”
She nodded, smiling up at him as he reached down with his free hand to play absently with one red curl that trailed down over her shoulder.
“I’ll talk to the Reverend,” he promised. “Soon as I get there. I know we should get married here,” he added. “But I’d really like my family to be present when we seal our vows.”
“I wouldn’t have it any other way, Kid,” Margaret agreed. “You set things up just the way you want and I’ll be there as fast as the stage can bring me. You’ll see, we’ll be the happiest couple this side of the Mississippi.”
Kid sighed reluctantly. Pushing away from her warmth and delight, he reached for his long johns. “I’d better get goin’. I’ve got ta get back ta the way station in time ta catch the mochila from the westbound rider.”
She climbed out of the bed, too, pulling a wrapper out of the armoire and tying it tightly around her waist. As Kid shimmied into his trousers and pulled his shirt on over his broad, masculine shoulders, she dug through her carpetbag.
Kid walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her back against him in a tight embrace.
“I’ve got to go. Give me a kiss to remember you by?” he begged, before leaning down to plunder her lips with his.
When the heated kiss ended, she pulled back with a breathless little laugh. “I’ve got something better in mind.”
“And what might that be? A ribbon? A lock of your hair? You?”
“No,” she said, smiling and pushing him back slightly so she could raise a hand up to where he could see what she held. “A book.”
“A book?” he asked, confused.
“Yes, of poetry. You read those poems and you’ll know exactly how I feel about you and you’ll never forget tonight.”
Taking the book from her, he flipped through the pages, not really seeing what was written on them. It was too dark for one thing, and for another he just wasn’t that good a reader to be able to read the poems that quickly.
But that was alright, as she began to recite one of the poems from memory.
“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”
“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” Cody chortled a bit as he walked away from Kid and Lou, continuing to read the poem, an apple in one hand.
Lou slanted an exasperated and hurt glance sideways at the Kid, before moving to follow Cody across the room, trying to peer over the taller, blonde rider’s shoulder at the book.
“Must’ve been a very interesting trip there, Kid,” Cody said knowingly.
Kid, deciding to ignore Cody, moved over and grabbed the water pot to begin filling the sink so he could wash up after his ride.
“Those are love poems. Why’d some woman give you that?” Lou asked suspiciously, continuing to follow Cody.
“Aw, come on, Lou,” Kid said, slightly defensively. “You make it sound like somethin’ happened.”
“Sounds like it to me, Kid,” Cody said, leaning forward to take a big, chomping bite out of the apple in his hand.
“You ain’t helpin’ much, Cody,” Kid answered, slightly exasperated. Cody laughed and kept reading and eating.
Lou turned away from peering over Cody’s shoulder to walk back over to Kid’s side.
“What am I s’posed ta think?” she asked, anger beginning to break through. She’d begun to let him closer again and now? Had he betrayed her trust? Had he found a woman more beautiful, more feminine, more appealing than her? Had she become more trouble to him than she was worth?
Reading the emotions flashing across her face, Kid slammed the water bucket down on the counter and stomped over to his brother.
“Cody,” he called. The other rider turned to face him, the book in his outstretched hand swinging toward Kid at the same time. Kid snatched it out of his grasp and walked back over to Lou.
“It’s a present,” Kid said, holding the book out toward Lou in both hands. “For you.”
“A present?” Lou said dubiously.
“Yeah. The hotel I stayed at--” The sound of Cody snicking another bite of apple interrupted Kid. The Kid turned to glare at his nosy brother before continuing. “The hotel I stayed at ran out of rooms. And… an old lady--” This time Cody’s noisy chomping interrupted the Kid. Having had enough, Kid reached out with one hand to shove Cody back out of his way before continuing his explanation. “An old lady needed one. So I gave her mine. This is a token of her appreciation.”
“An old lady gave you that?” The disbelief couldn’t have been louder if Lou had shouted it from the rooftop.
“That’s right,” he affirmed. “I wouldn’t even’ve took it if… I didn’t think you’d like it.”
A pleased smile began to grow on her face as she realized he was giving her a love present. A gift for a girl. Suddenly she felt guilty for her the direction her imagination had taken her.
She reverently took the book, staring down at the title for a long moment, before raising it almost to her lips in a slight kiss. Then, she reached out to pull Kid into a hug. “Mmmm. I never should’ve doubted you.”