tagRomanceKate the Kid

Kate the Kid

bymadam_noe©

This is a romantic novella, set up like a hisotrical romance novel, so the sex scenes may be long in coming, but well worth the wait.

***

The name they called out was Kid. She had no idea how she'd get out of it, Texas Jack Harris was a mean son of a bitch even if he was drunk and skinny. He swiped at her with his left, she faked right and ducked. Getting under him was no easy feat as she was 5'10" and he was only a little taller. Yet she went under and sent a left uppercut to his gut. He wheezed and feinted, she followed.

The two of them were fighting outside of some anonymous saloon. To the crowd around she was a young boy, behind her disguise a frustrated woman. She landed another punch in his side; Tex was weakening. Her moment of triumph ended as he swore and a meaty fist on a skinny but muscular arm sailed right for her.

She forgot to block and he landed a solid punch. God, it hurt. She was a tough girl, but a woman is a woman, and a man's a man. She fell down cursing the God that had made her so much weaker than a lout like Tex. How could Kate have gotten herself into this? The damn fool thought she was a boy, and so fair game. Still, he was upwards of thirty and as the Kid, she looked like a boy of sixteen.

The bastard had accused her of cheating, which she had been, but still, bottom stacking the deck was all she'd done. He thought she was stacking after she shuffled. Idiot. She'd wanted a gun fight; fair, clean. She could skin her smoke wagon faster than anyone in the area, even if she wouldn't shoot to kill. Hell Tex was a drunken fool. She'd just shoot up his hand so he couldn't work a trigger for a while.

Instead of a quick end, the damn man had wanted to go mano y mano. His last punch had her down now, on one knee. She was drawing on every ounce of strength and liquid courage to rise up for another go-round when a gunshot rang out.

The saloon crowd of gamblers, ranch hands, and whores that had gathered to watch parted. A tall, lean figure stepped out wearing a long black duster, covered in trail dust.

"Why Finnegan, I've never been so happy to see anyone in my life." She grinned up with false bravado.

"Christ Kid, you're drunk," he stated the obvious and lowered his shotgun. His bright blue gaze landed on Tex and the gun came back up as her opponent flexed his fists.

"Yeah, so?" She struggled up, grabbing his arm to steady herself. "Tex, you've won," she called out cheerfully.

"Damn kid cheated me. This ain't over yet."

"I don't think so," Finnegan gave Tex the stare that had withered many better men.

"Kid owes me fifty."

"You know who I am, Tex?"

"Yeah, you're that fucking Piker, Finnegan."

Not known for much more than his good aim and Irish temper, the gun exploded in Finnegan's hand. Blood spurted up from Tex's boot which he grabbed and began hopping. It was comical even to a hardened gunfighter, and that's what Kate was. She giggled like a tenderfoot after his first taste of rotgut.

Finnegan turned to frown at her. "Shut up, Kid. Now." He turned back to Tex. "Just go on and crawl back into whatever hole you came out of and sleep it off, or next time, I'm shooting something more precious." The barrel was now square with his crotch.

Already in pain, Tex visibly paled and nodded. As he limped off the crowd dispersed completely, slinking back to their entertainments on the Row, giving Finnegan more berth than they would have given the Kid.

"Kid," Finnegan turned his temper on her now. "What the hell are you doing in Denver?"

Finnegan was one of the few people who knew she was a woman. Her gender made no difference to him, something that had always endeared him to Kate, and when it came to blistering her ears, he pulled no punches. The fellow hired gun was a welcome sight, even if he was hollerin'.

"Just finished a job," she grinned at him, "I was celebratin'."

"Yeah," he lowered the gun to the ground like a cane with a heavy breath and looked around. "I know how ya celebrate. Damn cardsharp, Kate. You're gonna get y'self killed someday."

"Aw, it's just fun. Ain't never cheated nobody that didn't deserve it, Finn. What are you doin' in Denver?"

"Friend got some deeds outside of town. Offered me a partnership." He grinned at that and turned, leading her up the street past the brothels and lower saloons while she stumbled behind in curiosity.

"Well I'll be damned, ol' Finnegan goin' legit?" She was tired and the brandy in her system was slowly working its way through her veins to her head, thickening her tongue and her speech. She wanted a nice long sleep, which she well deserved after two solid weeks on the trail.

"I figured it's worth a try. Come on, have a drink with me." She looked up and noticed they'd passed her hotel and shrugged. "Sure, why not." They were off the dusty street now and onto the wooden boardwalk. He led her to a small hotel, the Wilshire, and through the small, dark lobby.

"Is it a friend from back in Ireland?"

"None other than me brother in law and sister."

"Why didn't you say so?" She grinned as he unlocked the door to his room.

"Ya didna ask." Inside was the standard rope bed, dresser, and wash stand. A few liquor bottles littered the night stand, attesting a few days' stay. From a drawer he pulled out a new bottle of cognac.

"Ahh, the good stuff." She smiled and accepted the dirty glass he offered. "What are we celebratin'? You're too damn happy to be tied to some land."

"I'm to be an uncle."

"Well, cheers then." She clanked glasses with him and took a big gulp.

He frowned at her over his rim. "You're supposed to bloody sip it, y' know. It's fer enjoying, not swilling like a greedy swine."

"All right." Just to make him angry her next sip was even larger. "Can't believe it, ol' Finnegan goin' legit. Well, at least it means more business for me. I ain't one for retiring."

"Watch it with the ol' stuff, Kid, I'm only thirty four." He sank onto the bed with a groan.

"Well, it don't mean nothin'. They call me Kid but I'm twenty four." She grinned at him. He smiled in return and her own grin broadened.

Finnegan Cullen was one of the first people she'd met in San Francisco after Isabella had "tamed" her, as her friend liked to say. He'd always been a fair friend, a help some times, an utter pain in the ass at others. He was lean but full of corded muscle, his hair was sandy, his eyes bright blue. He'd been born in County Cavan and had fled the famine like so many. She'd never known how he came to be a gunfighter, but so many lived as such in the west.

All it took was one illegal transgression in the states and escape to the west was the only option for many. She knew that better than most. He had always been one for horseback and the open range, and seeing him retire was a bit sobering. Her friends as of late had been settling down, and if Izzy caught word of it she'd set to nagging Kate again.

"So where's this sister of yours?" She took off her hat, a rarity for her showing her comfort level. Her hair was her one vanity, thick, long, and auburn it had to be hidden under her hat to keep the "Kid" alive. She set her bandana down on top of her Stetson and kicked her feet up. She was seated in the lone chair while Finnegan reclined, his feet by hers.

"She and the husband are in a room next door. We're staying here until we can build a cottage on our land."

"Land worth anything?"

"We found a vein of silver that looks good, but even if not we could farm most of it. It'll keep them until the end of their days."

"What about you, Finn? What will you do?" She held her glass out for more and he poured obligingly. The gas lamp flickered for a moment making the liquid flow staccato.

He sat back and shrugged. "I'll help mine, maybe buy the land next t' theirs. I'd like to find a wife, have some kids o' me own."

"Wow, you, a father? Shit, never say." She knew cursing was a sign she'd had too much. She polished off her glass and set it on the chest of drawers.

"I've always wanted it, might even have a go at respectability."

She laughed outright. Finnegan Cullen was many things, but respectable? Never. "You'll never be a one woman man, Finn." There were tales, she thought, that could prove it. The man was famous in brothels all through the territories. There were even tales that he'd visited all the whores in three of them in one night.

"For the right woman, maybe." This was said softly.

Alarm bells went off in Kate's head, she blinked purposefully. His image swam in front of her. She'd had too much drink, but was that why he was looking at her so...well, so differently?

She'd seen that look before, that look had been coming her way entirely too much as of late. She'd been a late bloomer, so to speak. It wasn't until she was eighteen she'd filled out enough to need to bind her breasts. No one had ever questioned her as the Kid before that sorry state of affairs had arisen. In the last year, at the age of twenty four, her hips had rounded, her waist tucked in more. Her curves had finally filled out and she was getting that look too much.

Her drunk mind swirled. Isabella would know what to do. Her friend ran an Inn in San Francisco and in the eight years they'd known one another Izzy'd fended off countless suitors. Isabella knew everything there was to know about handling men, and now that she was being taken out of the game Kate decided maybe she should learn a few tricks. In just a short time she'd be married, and Kate would be left alone in the world.

Her previous lecture sunk in. The new husband, Jerome, wouldn't want Kate living in their home. And she'd be out amongst the wolves. In situations just like this. Drunk, in a man's bedroom. He may have been a friend, but he wasn't looking very buddy-like at the moment.

For the first time in her life Kate felt like a woman alone. Not the capable, legendary Kid. Just a woman.

"You're beautiful, Kate." He started to sit up more.

Nervous as hell she grabbed her hat. "Uh, I ah, have to go." She stumbled a bit and he stood, looming over her in the small room. Kate darted for the door and managed to fling it open, smashing her hat on her head as she burst into the hall.

"Kate? Kate! Wait!" he called out but she was already down the hall without a further word.

She moved like a demon out of the open lobby and onto the boardwalk. Her hotel was just a block away. Once inside her room, Kate collapsed.

In one night she'd lost a fist fight and then was almost mauled by a friend. It finally occurred to her:

Kate was going to have to retire the Kid.

#

She dreamt that night in an unusually vivid montage for her. Kate's dreams were usually about hunger. For love, for safety, for money. But that night it was memories. Memories that had haunted her unsuccessfully.

There was Pierre, slapping her for some small offense. Then his mangled body, the bear's claw marks covering him. Then there was White Eagle, so young and proud, riding off to battle. Then his sister, Little Cloud, holding Kate as she cried. He'd died so young, so many years ago, but the pain was so fresh. In the real world, beyond dreams, she cried out in her sleep.

Then there were those two lost years of wandering, violence, and pain. Desperation that had driven her on until Little Cloud had found her. And then Isabella, her savior.

There were Finnegan as she once knew him, Spotted Horse, and Dan Forth, her trusted friends. All people who cared for her and about her, but the loneliness, always the loneliness. Then the hunger came.

It was the same, always the same. Green eyes, eyes like fire in a sea of darkness, seeking her out. But so far away, always out of reach. A deep rumble, was it laughter or thunder? She couldn't tell. A feeling of sharp loneliness and a sort of restlessness she wasn't used to. Then she awoke.

It was morning. Denver, she remembered, she was just north of the infamous Row. Her head ached and yet again she swore she'd never drink again. She rang the bell pull for a bath and rose slowly. What she wanted was hair of the dog, what she used was cold water.

The door opened and a tub was brought in and filled quickly by two efficient youths who left with a tidy tip. She stripped down before settling into the warm water with a sigh. She soaked her hair and closed her eyes.

Retirement. She had never thought about it.

She had enough money, she supposed, to buy herself some land on a ridge and build a little house. Nothing fancy. Hell, maybe she could buy a small ranch. Ironic, wasn't it, that as a woman she couldn't get work as a ranch hand, but she could employ them.

That was something she'd never gotten used to. She'd had 14 years of her life where women had been equal to men. After ten years in "society" she still couldn't get used to it.

As she soaked in the scented water she fingered the gold locket around her neck. Worrying it in her hands she opened it again. Once a picture had been inside, now there was only the inscription. Kate.

It was all she had of her life. Of what she assumed was her life.

She'd awoken on the floor of a dusty cabin as Pierre, a grizzled fur trapper, had returned to use it for the season. She didn't know her name, age, parents, or where she was from. He said she had a funny accent, but he was straight from France. For two years he'd worked her hard, using her as a virtual slave. She kept house and helped clean and tan the furs and hides he produced. He taught her how to shoot and cared for her most basic needs. But other than that, he'd been a bastard.

When he had finally died, it was a blessing. The only people she knew to trust were the people she met at the trading post. Other, rougher Frenchman and the Lakotas. Little Cloud and White Eagle's family had taken her in when she was about seven summers. No one knew her real age.

The locket was all she had and Kate was probably her mother's name anyway, not hers. But the family had given her a new name, a place of her own. She'd been Light Fire, in deference to her hair. Bright red as a child it had settled to light auburn over the years.

She had loved Light Eagle as a brother and as they aged the love had changed. At twelve summers she was pledged to him. When she was fourteen he had been killed on a hunting party by warring Ute. Her world had been turned upside down by the loss, and as a woman she was denied her right to retribution. Instead his father and brother rode on, only to be killed as well.

She hadn't understood the need for war. The white man had been steadily herding them back and still the nations warred. So she'd turned her back on them, determined to rejoin white society.

At first she'd been held back by language. Thanks to Pierre she could read and write in French. But after almost seven years she knew the Lakota language better. The English of her childhood had faded from memory until it was gone completely.

She'd headed straight for the white territories. She'd been a scout, could ride well, hunt, shoot, do just about anything. So long as she wore her buckskins and vermillion, riding on horseback, no one had bothered her. Then she'd made it to St. Louis and her dress and manners had outright shocked the people there.

Her horse had been stolen so in turn she'd stolen one. Horse thievery was frowned upon and in no time at all she'd had a price on her head. For two years she'd run back and forth through the territories and the states, hunted by Pinkertons as a wild child, sought after by bounty hunters as well.

After two years Little Cloud had found her. She extracted a promise for four months from her. Four months of living together, no more thieving. In payment for her family's help those long ago years, Kate had agreed. Little Cloud had gone to a missionary school after her parents were killed and had learned English, which she taught Kat eagerly. She also taught Kate manners, dress, and the culture of the whites.

They'd gone to Chicago. Little Cloud wanted to live in Hull House and work helping the poor, but it hadn't been a life for Kate. Barely civilized she knew the states were not for her. So she'd gone into the territories and took the name Kid, the gunfighter her wanted posters had made her out to be.

Isabella had found her in San Francisco. The Italian hoyden had insinuated herself into Kate's life and never looked back. The woman was full of life, tricks, and humor. Little Cloud had shown her how to live among the whites, but Isabella had shown her how to love it.

In turn Kate had taught her how to gamble, ride, and shoot. It was a mistake because Isabella used the tricks to get into too many scrapes. Kate had become her keeper as much as friend. Isabella had money, intelligence, and determination. Kate had sensibility, luck, and friends on her side. Together they'd built the Rockport Inn, as well as the little house behind it.

But Isabella was getting married, and Kate would have to leave that house. The world was just getting too rough for her, it was time to settle down. She shifted about in the water and frowned. Settling down didn't seem too nice. She wasn't a respectable woman. She never cavorted with men, but she had no real name, no family. She owned a horse, two six shooters, and kept her money in Isabella's safe.

It was enough to purchase a parcel of land, she'd seen to it. But Kate wasn't the type to be complacent alone. Yet she couldn't imagine any man settling for her. Sure, types like Finnegan might. But Finnegan was a philanderer if there ever was one, and she saw him as a friend.

No, Kate wanted the kind of man Isabella had talked about. Someone strong, stronger than her. Hell, there were enough around but she wanted a man she couldn't push around, but one who wouldn't push her around ether. Someone good looking, she liked them dark, Kate thought with a shrug. Someone intelligent, who didn't drink too much, smoke too much. Someone who'd be faithful, someone who made her heart beat faster.

Isabella assured her those were the best kind of men. Not that she'd put much thought into it, until now. Still, would that kind of man marry a woman with no family, no roots, no home, and no name? Not likely, she snorted.

She needed advice. She knew what Isabella would say. The woman was as crazy as the day was long with her schemes and appetite for "adventure." She'd probably close the Inn for weeks and book them passage to Boston or something. Force Kate into dresses for husband hunting.

She just couldn't imagine herself draped in silks fluttering a fan and simpering over coy games. Too bad there was no such thing as a mail-order husband, she grinned.

It was time to get up and dressed. Kate brushed her hair out before carefully binding her large breasts. The cloth didn't help too much but under her loose shirts it worked to conceal the curves. She slid on her white linen shirt and belted it into her buckskin breeches. Over that went her brown coat and gun belt. Her boots slid on, spurs jangling lightly.

It took her hair a while to dry, but once done she tied it under the bandana. With the hat clamped on she felt confident once more and quickly packed. Done, she surveyed the room, hoping she hadn't missed anything. Kate's eyes lit upon the mirror.

Underneath her hat her face had even subtly changed. Her blue eyes seemed brighter now surrounded by long, thick lashes, almost sooty black. Her cheekbones looked higher, more tapered. Her chin was too delicate and heart shaped to pass for a man's, not even a youth's as she had been trying. Her lips were thick and pink, adding to her femininity.

It was definitely time to retire. But respectability? Never, not for Kate. Isabella couldn't show her what to do, there was only one person who could. Little Cloud.

Kate hefted her saddle bag onto her shoulder before paying her bill in the lobby. Sweetwater, a dumb name for a horse for sure, was waiting for her in the livery down the street. Saddled up Sweet was happy to be moving once more. He was a white Arabian, an extravagant purchase that had set her back a pretty penny but was worth every cent. She'd studded him out twice and already made back more than half his asking price. More than that Sweet was a companion, faithful, incredibly responsive. No money could account for that, it was just breeding.

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