tagRomanceKate the Kid Ch. 07

Kate the Kid Ch. 07

bymadam_noe©

Kate was furious. Long days of riding, and Finn had said nothing but sorry. No explanations, no apologies, no accusations, nothing.

And now they were in St. Louis.

It had only been a short time since she had stood in the station, waiting on Jerome. It felt like an eternity. She was a woman now, really and truly, everything was different.

She wasn't afraid, not of Finn. Over the last several nights he'd watched her with nervous eyes. She knew in her heart wherever he was taking her, he believed she would be fine.

Sweet was loaded with other livestock into a car, eying her balefully as if he knew there was a gun in the small of her back.

When the doors closed Finn walked her down the platform, and to her shock a Pullman car had been attached to the back of the train, and he made her walk into it.

It was a parlor. For a moment she forgot she was captive and gaped. The walls were a pale gold silk damask, the floor a plush green carpet. There was a small hall leading to two tiny rooms, two comfortable looking chairs, and a well stocked bar.

"One's a bedroom, but you won't be sleeping in there. We'll sleep in the chairs. Other's a privy, I had the window nailed shut and I'll time you."

She flopped down into one of the chairs. "So we're going to Chicago. Let me guess, you took that fool bounty for horse stealin', Finn? You that hard up for money? Shit, I could've loaned it to you, Izzy woulda given it to you!"

He sat wearily in the opposite chair and tucked his gun loosely into his trousers. "Kate, I can't tell you why, or you'll bolt. I promise you, no harm will come, and you'll make it to Izzy's wedding. Jerome is already there."

Now that she was free to talk, her eyes narrowed. "Because you killed the men following us."

He shook his head and removed his hat. "There were inquiries, but no one took the case. They were after you, Kate. When I found that out, I killed them and took over the bounty. I promise you, you'll be safer this way."

"I can take care of myself, Finn!"

He fairly growled at her. "This isn't a matter of taking care of yourself, it's about finishing old business."

With that cryptic comment she opened her mouth, but a knock came at the door. Finn stood and motioned her quiet, moving to peer out the small window.

He opened the door and to her shock delivery men bearing no less than three towers of boxes. Finn directed them into the bedroom and Kate eyed them, pleading, but none would look at the woman in men's dusty trail clothes. Finn kept his gun tucked behind his back so she could only stare at it.

Would he shoot her? Her heart said no, but she hadn't made it that far in her life trusting her heart. Besides, she had Sweet to consider, and he was more than just a damn horse. He was her oldest and best friend aside from Izzy.

And she couldn't let Finn bring him back to Chicago. Sweet's old brand was all the proof needed to tighten a noose around her neck. As a woman, execution was the best she could hope for.

The delivery men awaited a tip and Finn just closed the door with his boot. "Well," he asked, turning back to sit on the chair, "Aren't you going to ask what's in the boxes?"

"What do I care. Spending the bounty already?"

He frowned. "They're for you."

She tipped her hat back until it slid down her hair. "Finn, level with me. We're old buddies. What is this about?"

He looked at her, a war in those beautiful blue eyes. "If I tell you, you have to promise not to run. I'd never hurt you, well," he blushed, "I had to knock you out. You'd have never come with."

"I might have, if you told me the truth."

"Kate, the man who's been searching for you all these years, he doesn't want you hanged. He doesn't want you in jail. Kate, he's your father."

She let the shock wash over her. A father. Could it be real? After all these years? She closed her eyes, tears unshed pooling behind her lids. A father! How could he have abandoned her like that? How could he put a fucking bounty on her head, instead of just cabling the Rockport?

"Fuck!" She yelled and lunged at Finn. In surprise he dropped his gun and merely grabbed her shoulders as she landed, battering him mindlessly with her fists. "You bastard! Of course I would have come! I wouldn't miss this for the world!"

He struggled to grab her wrists and once he did, the tears burst free. Her dear friend, her kidnapper, held her as she cried.

***

Chicago was so familiar, and yet so foreign. She'd never seen it through the eyes of a tourist, having always been there on business or to see her sister White Cloud.

She felt uncomfortable. The boxes had been gifts from her father, frilly dresses. She had given up on figuring out the underthings, refused to even try the corset, and agreed to wear a powder blue frothy dress. Finn had at least let her wear her boots beneath it.

More than the dress was the fact that her father was Jonathon McMasters. McMasters was legendary in her world. He'd only been in the states twenty years, and in that time had amassed an empire in Texas. Ranching, collecting bounties, he had built himself up before his wife died, then moving into the northern states as a businessman.

His wife. Her mother. Kate felt her heart wince. The woman had been dead ten years, which meant they had been alive at the same time, but now they'd never meet.

Finn sensed her sadness and patted her arm. All washed up and in dress clothes of a city man he was breathtaking, drawing the eyes of a number of young women on the street. Still, insanely, the only person she wanted with her to meet her father was Rafe.

She trusted him in a strange way. That second time...that had been something serious. He'd said he wouldn't push her, and he hadn't. He knew her world, as much as Finn did, but she felt Rafe was somehow...more connected.

She shook off the thought as they stopped in front of the Palmer House Hotel. The hotel was impressive, richly appointed, the staff in expensive uniforms.

"You can do this, Kate. I'll be with you every step."

She forced a smile up at Finn and patted his arm. "I know you only did what you thought you had to. I know this man...my father, must have something on you. No," she shook her head when he started to speak, "I don't want to know what it is. I only want to know that this will square you two."

Without responding, he led her inside and a man lounging in the large posh room folded his newspaper and stood. Kate recognized hired muscle right away.

"Mr. Finnegan, Miss McMasters." Kate's eyes widened at the name. It didn't feel right. Finn shook the mans hand and she nodded to him. "I'll take you to your father now."

She barely digested his words, still staring at the huge ceiling with the multiple murals. She had never seen anything like it in her life.

He led them to a small door where a uniformed man waited. He opened the door and Kate saw a tiny room. "What's this?"

"An Otis elevator," the man who'd greeted them said.

"What does it do?"

Finn grinned down at her, making her blush. "It will take us up to the floor."

She goggled as they stepped in with another unformed man who closed the inner door and grasped a lever on the floor, turning it after asking which floor.

Kate gasped as it lurched and grabbed Finn. She hadn't realized just how different the states were. The Rockport had three floors and a grand staircase, no magical room that moved up and down with a hydraulic whine.

The doors opened on a richly appointed floor, and outside a large door two more armed men stood, and Kate followed the third to them, Finn in tow.

The guards all nodded and opened the door to a rich room. Aubusson carpets, dark stained oaks, red velvet furniture, Kate began to feel her nerves jangle.

She was a poor country mouse in worn boots, with a stolen horse stabled outside. She was a woman with no education, and in this world, no value seeing as she'd given away her virginity just days before.

Standing at the window was a tall, slim man with red hair, the same shade as hers. Kate stopped, Finn plowing into her back with a grunt.

"Mr. McMasters?" The guard asked.

He turned and Kate began to tremble. He had her nose, her hair, the same long build she had, more legs than anything else. He had broad shoulders, a thick mustache, and sun-worn gray eyes.

"Katie!"

It was her name! The trembling deepened and she was rooted to the spot.

The guard left and Finn stood behind her so close she could feel his body heat.

"My God, you look so much like your mother. She was Katherine too, but we always called you Katie."

He drew closer and she realized he was tall enough to give Rafe a run for his money. Something seemed off, her heart was hammering, and Kate just couldn't move.

He stopped midway to hugging her. "Well, it will just take time. Finnegan, we can consider your debt canceled now that you've brought Katie home."

Finn cleared his throat. "Uh, it's Kate, sir."

She could have kissed him, nodding instead when McMasters looked down at her. "Kate," he said softly, a note of disapproval in his voice.

He turned then to open a large box on a marble-topped table. He pulled out a bundle of dollars that made her eyes bug out, tossing it Finn who caught it with a deft flick of his wrist. "Take this for your troubles."

Finn understood as well as she did he was being dismissed but he didn't move. "Sir, a mutual friend of ours is getting married in San Francisco. I brought Kate here as you asked, but if we want to make it we need to turn right around and leave."

"No. Kate I'm sorry you'll have to miss the wedding but I've just found you. We're going home to New York, we leave tomorrow."

"No!"

Finn stepped in front of her, defensively.

McMasters just smiled and barked out, "Phineas!"

The guard returned and Finn drew his weapon only to have McMasters grab it from his hand. "Show Mr. Finnegan the way out."

The guard grabbed the slim Irishman with an evil smile. "With pleasure, sir."

Kate tried to grab him but McMasters grabbed her wrist with an iron grip. "Let me go," she growled.

He smiled down at her as Finn was dragged out and the door shut heavily with an ominous thud. "Little Katie, you're leaving that pathetic life behind, just as I did. We're going home to New York, to your new life, and I have just the man waiting for you."

She had fought many battles in her life, but something in this man's eyes, she'd never think of him as her father, made her heart sink.

***

Rafe felt his eye begin to tick. Something told him Kate was in grave danger, and alone he could travel much faster. Having Dan, Jerome, and Izzy in tow was slowing him down.

They'd caught up in St. Louis, Izzy looking almost silly in pants astride a horse, Jerome looking weary.

Turns out Finnegan had taken Jerome's fancy train car, so they'd ridden like cattle on hard wooden benches. Two robberies and one mechanical issue later, they'd arrived three weeks after Finnegan and Kate's train had.

Now, waiting for everyone to get their horses, he was jumpy.

Izzy took pity on him. "The Porter already told us the Palmer House Hotel. Why don't you ride ahead, we'll catch up?"

"Thank you," Rafe said, kissing the top of her head.

He practically vaulted onto his horse and galloped onto the streets, dodging pedestrians, horse-drawn rail cars, and carriages.

The Palmer was a hotel you couldn't miss, and he rode right up to, disrupting a group of women alighting from a carriage.

He hopped off his horse and hurried inside to the desk.

"McMasters, what room is he in?" He asked a startled young man.

"Mc- who?"

"McMmasters, Jonathon McMasters. Tall, redheaded, mean sonofabitch, what room?"

"MacNeil."

Rafe heard Finnegan, and turned around with a roundhouse.

Finn went flying to the marble floor, and Rafe curled his fists, ready to dish out more.

Finn sat up slowly, cradling his nose, blood seeping out as finely dressed ladies gasped around them.

"All right, MacNeil, I guess I deserved that. He swore he wasn't going to hurt her! She's his daughter fer chrissakes."

Rafe's blood froze. "What?"

The other man stood and waved off the house detective who was rapidly approaching. "She's his daughter. He wasn't supposed to hurt her, but he kicked me out, had his men beat the shit out of me. I've been waiting outside, every day for you." Finn smiled as he stood. "The old man tried to drag her out of here, she punched his bodyguard, broke his nose. She's been locked up ever since."

"His daughter?" Was all Rafe could manage.

Finn nodded, handkerchief pressed to his nose. "I swear, I found out from my family in Boston that the men following you were actually after Kate. I was angry, very angry. I questioned them, and killed them. They would have raped her and I...I love her."

Rafe felt his temper ready to boil over, but he was acutely aware of the stares from guests, employees, and the house detective fingering his holstered gun.

Finn sighed. "She doesn't fell the same way about me. At all. I'm just a Goddamned brother to her. I wired her father and as I owe him, big time, offered to bring her in safely."

"All right. We're getting her out of here, but this is not settled, Finnegan."

The other man smiled. "If you want to kick my ass, better get in line behind Kate and Izzy."

"So how do we get to her?"

"She's under lock and key all day every day, three or four guards with her. I've been watching for an in, but nothing."

Rafe turned away and muscled past two young couples up to the desk. "I want a room, next to McMasters'."

The clerk raised a brow at him. "Reservation, sir?"

"Do I look like I have a damned reservation?"

The clerk eyed him up and down with distaste. "Sir, the McMasters wedding is in two days, we're booked solid."

"The-what?" Finn said beside him, and Rafe nodded, heart in his throat. "Whose wedding?"

"Miss McMasters and Charles Bunton. Now please step aside, we have real guests checking in."

"What's going on?" Jerome said behind them, and they turned to see Jerome, Izzy and Dan wearing puzzled looks.

"We need a damned room and they won't give us one."

Jerome smiled down at Izzy. "Darling?"

"I'll take care of it." She glided past the men and smiled beguilingly up at the clerk.

"What's going on?" Jerome asked, pulling Rafe back.

"McMasters is Kate's father, and he's marrying her off to some twit."

His friend raised one dark brow and pulled his glasses off to clean the dust from the lenses. "And how do we know she doesn't want to marry this...twit?"

Rafe glared at him. "She isn't the marrying kind, or so she said. And anyone her father knows is a criminal, rich or not, a fucking criminal. Kate's not like that."

"Damn right," Dan said.

"Gentlemen, we have a room," Izzy said with pride.

"How'd you manage that?" Finn asked.

She smiled up at Jerome and slid her arm around his waist. "Well, we missed our wedding back home, so I thought the ballroom here would work just as well."

"Izzy, I need to see Kate, as quickly as possible."

She raised a brow and tossed her wild hair back. "And why is that? From all she has told me, you two are not exactly friends."

Rafe felt his face grow hot under the weight of four pairs of eyes. "Damn it, it doesn't matter. McMasters is her father, he's holding her prisoner, and she's getting married in two days. You're her best friend, you tell me this is what she wants."

Izzy paled. "This man has her guarded?" At Finn's nod she smiled. "Gentleman I assume you're all entertaining visions of storming her rooms, guns blazing, but some things call for a softer touch."

"I don't care how you do it, but we need to get her out of here, and away from McMasters."

A knowing look passed between Jerome and Izzy, spreading to the two other men, and Rafe stalked off in a huff.

***

Izzy was stunned. For two hours Dan, Finn, and her beloved had lectured her on Jonathon McMasters. The man was, by all accounts, a monster, nothing like the gentle if hardened soul she knew Kate to be.

Now she sat in the parlor of his suite, one fine lady calling upon another, and she barely recognized her friend.

Kate wore a lavender day gown lined in Swiss lace, a frock almost too frothy to be made for a grown woman. Visibly pained by a tight corset and heeled shoes, beneath her fancifully quaffed hair she sported tired eyes and a red cheek.

"Where do we begin?" Izzy asked after the tears dried.

"It's been too long since I last saw you. Much too long." The thick drawl still in her friend's voice made Izzy smile.

"I know this horrible man is your father, and I know he's forcing you to marry. Why won't you leave?"

"Izzy, so much has happened."

"Start at the beginning."

Kate laughed hollowly. "And just where is that?"

"Finn explained meeting your father. Start there."

"Finn tried to help me leave. He was beaten. I was told we were going back to New York. My clothes were burned. I knew if I got onto the train to New York I'd never escape, so I fought.

"McMasters, I refuse to call him anything else, had me beaten, locked me up inside here, and informed me I would be marrying the lawyer who handles all his property issues. He owes the man some debt, and I am to pay it."

Izzy scooted to the edge of her chair and placed her smaller hand over her friend's. "I've always seen you fight. Remember those stage coach robbers who tried to grab me? Five of them and you tossed them all. Where is your spirit now?"

"It's complicated."

"Has he threatened White Cloud?"

Kate shook her head. "The day he tried to make me leave, I saw Finn for less than a minute. He told me they're safe, visiting her husband's family."

"Then what is it?"

Kate looked out the window, staring past the bustling city below. "Izzy, I missed my monthly flow."

Isabella's heart stopped. "Did your fa- did that man do anything to you? One of his men?"

"No. It doesn't matter who. If I don't marry this man, this crooked lawyer, he said he'll take my baby from me and turn me out. If there is one. Me on my own, now that I know well. But if I have a child I will never abandon him or her."

"Who's the father? Finnegan? He loves you, he'll marry you, he can protect you. We all can!"

"It's not Finn, it doesn't matter. If there is a baby, than this man is a father, and he wouldn't marry me. How could I protect my child against McMasters?"

"You know plenty of people who could help you, Jerome, Dan, Finn, me. I know you think my marriage will be the end of our partnership but it won't. Jerome will handle the shipping, the Rockport is my baby, yours too. It will always be your home."

"Izzy you're talking crazy. And do what with my life? Taint a nice hotel with my status as a ruined woman, raising a bastard for the world to see?

"I know if there is a baby, the father won't marry me. No other man would, not with how I've lived my life. And anyways, you might not realize it, but now that you have Jerome, there's no room for me."

"Well then, start a ranch, you've always wanted to, and you'd be great at it."

"And what hand would take orders from a waddling pregnant woman with no husband?"

Izzy sat back. "Have you really given up? Has this man really broken your spirit? What hold could he have over you?"

"He killed my mother." That shocked her friend into silence. "I've heard people talking for years. I never knew it was my parents they were talking about. I don't know what to do just yet. I don't think I can face what I know in my heart I should do.

"I don't know the man I'm to marry, but if I'm lucky he'll be old, and think this baby is his, and die soon to leave me free. My child will have a name, something to fall back on in case..."

Izzy sighed and dank back into her plush chair. "In case what? What has you scared?"

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