tagRomanceKate the Kid Ch. 09

Kate the Kid Ch. 09

bymadam_noe©

"You are truly a cow," McMasters growled, echoing the sentiment of the man he'd paired her with. Kate knew she had to tamp down on her own temper, or all would be lost.

"Perhaps, but what more could I be when I was sired by such cloddish bull like you?"

His fists curled, a vein in his neck throbbed. "You are nothing like me, a worthless girl. When I thought you were merely a horse thief I would have dragged you back to civilization and hanged you. When you eluded me, I would have hung you out in the prairie, just as I did on my ranch. But when I discovered you were my own blood, I knew there was only one use for you.

"You will keep your mouth shut, comport yourself as a lady, marry this man, and give me access to monies you have only dreamed of."

"'Comport' myself as a lady? Does that mean act? For as I see it, ladies around here do nothing but share blankets with other men, spend money on dresses, and act as silly as a very slow child. Is that what mother did?" Kate eyed his growing rage and knew to push on. "She took men to her bed, didn't she? So how do you even know you're my pappy?"

Anyone looking at the two could see, but a flicker of doubt crept into his eyes and she knew she'd hit the nail on the head.

He moved to slap her but on of the men stepped forward and grabbed his hand. "Sir, not here, not now."

McMasters trembled with rage. "Unhand me, or die."

His hand was dropped.

"You would do well to hold your tongue, or I will hand you over to my men to do with as they please."

"By all means, go right ahead. Can't get hitched to your fancy man if I ain't no virgin. And if I ain't hitched, can't be shackled to a man like you, driven into the arms of any other, until he kills me."

He swept down, arms caging her on the couch, his face inches from hers. "That slut mother of yours deserved to die. I watched her sputter, begging for her life and yours, laughing. I promised her you would be nothing like her, you be what I made you."

Her blood chilled to hear it confirmed. Rage gripped her, and wanted nothing more than to beat his face with her fists until they were both bloody. But Kate was a seasoned gunfighter, and she knew to keep a level head.

The Pinkerton couldn't have heard, no one but Kate had. With a deep breath, she raised her voice. "You killed her. You killed my mother."

"And as soon as you produce an heir, I will do the same to you."

Her eyes widened, but before she could respond, a snarling ball of rage knocked McMasters to the ground.

The guards drew their guns and suddenly Dan and Finnegan were there, guns trained on the guards.

Screams rang out from the crowd and they began to flee. Kate realized it was Rafe on the ground, pummeling McMaster's face. Before satisfaction crept into her soul, McMasters reached into hiss pocket and drew a gun.

"Rafe, look out!"

A man she'd never seen before rushed in and kicked at McMasters' arm. One of the guards shot, and all hell truly broke loose.

Bodies twisted and tangled, and Jerome grabbed Kate, dragging her back towards Izzy. "Are you okay?" her best friend asked with a tight hug.

"Fine, but McMasters has a gun and that man, guess he must be the Pinkerton, got shot.

"Hell," Jerome cursed, stripped off his jacket, and waded into the melee.

Finnegan was unconscious and bleeding, slumped against a wall, and now a guard was punching at Rafe's head as he struggled to keep a bear hug around McMasters.

Dan Forth was dragging the Pinkerton, bleeding from an arm, back towards safety, and the other guard was dead. It was a mess.

"Izzy, you need to get out of here, it's gonna get real bad, real fast."

"I am not going anywhere."

Kate slipped her hand in the slit a maid had made for her and grabbed the Derringer. Not much of a gun, but it'd work in a pinch.

"Go with the crowd into the lobby, Izzy. Don't argue with me." Her friend's eyes widened, and Izzy turned back to see Jerome stumble back with a bloody lip and a broken nose. "God damn it, git!"

Izzy turned and fled, and Kate saw Rafe was bleeding, weak, on top of the guard. McMasters was scooting away, his pistol naked, the hammer back, the nose aimed squarely at Rafe's head.

Kate raised her own gun, and with the same calm that flowed over her she steadied, aimed, and squeezed the trigger.

McMaster's fell, and it made the handful of remaining people stop and stare.

He wasn't moving.

***

"We got him," the Pinkerton, named Charles Montgomery, said with a thick voice. He sat on the couch alongside Finnegan as the doctor bandaged his arm. The shot had grazed him something bloody, but he'd be fine.

Finnegan's head was bandaged up, his smarts not completely knocked out. Jerome was bloodied, but not too much, and Dan forth held McMasters at gunpoint. Kate's shot had done as planned; his gun hand was ruined, but McMasters was alive to face justice.

Rafe's arms wrapped around Kate, and even though he was bleeding onto her dress, she didn't have a complaint in the world.

"It's over, it's truly over."

"Kate, there's something I have to tell you. He hired me...to find you."

She raised her arms to cover his and squeezed them. "I figured. Only bounty worth hiring a man like you would be the one for horse stealin', one way too high. I'd always wondered about it, but I knew it was McMasters, and the stories I'd heard...I always thought it was just revenge."

"I was never going to turn you in, bring you back. Once I got to know you, I couldn't give you over to a man like that. McMasters started in ranching, but when he married your mother he married into the railroads.

"He became ruthless and unstoppable then. When they needed land, he knew just how to get it. My brother-in-law had resisted his 'offers' for his family lands, even come to Boston to fight it. I know he killed him. I know he killed your mother too, and now he'll hang. We can find peace at last."

She had nothing to say to that. In such a short time, she had found her parents, and now to know what her...what McMasters had done, she would be grieving for a long time.

Rafe kissed the top of her head as the doctor let Montgomery stand and waved him over. "My turn." Dropping his arms he stepped around to face her and pulled Kate into a tight embrace once more, and a kiss that seared her to her toes.

Pulling back, he looked into her eyes. "We have things to discuss, so you go on up to Izzy's room and wait for me."

She merely nodded, still dazed by all that had happened.

She caught Jerome's arm as he tried to leave. "Jerome, what's gonna happen?"

He looked down at her with tired eyes and a soft smile. "Montgomery will turn him over to the police. He'll be brought to trial, and now that I know he killed my friend as well as my friend's mother," he laid his hand over her tightly locked fingers, "I will move heaven and earth to see justice served. They'll hang him. I'll have my lawyer work out the estate, for I have a feeling you'll want nothing of it. But start thinking now, Kate, you could be a rich woman.

"Come on, I'll see you to the lift, but then I have to get to the telegraph office."

She put her arm in his and walked to the lobby. Police had arrived, the crowd was minimal, but still a few registered guests lingered, staring wide-eyed at Jerome's wounds and the blood on Kate's dress.

She took the lift not to Jerome and Izzy's floor but her own. Police were there, along with men in dark suits she took to be more Pinkerton's. Jerome was spending a fortune, and she couldn't be happier in her heart that her friend was marrying such a kind man.

With the help of the two maids she found her own things and soon wore denim trousers, the embroidered shirt she'd packed away, and her low-slung belt with her guns. Even with her breasts bound stiffly, her hair tucked tightly beneath her hat, she felt better than she ever had.

Luckily no one paid her any heed as she packed her scant few things into her saddle bag, slung it over her shoulder, and left.

She took the stairs to Izzy's floor and knocked softly on the door.

Her friend had changed into a more subtle blue dress, still appropriate for the evening, and her hair was dark and flowing. "Kate, or should I call you Kid?"

Kate dropped the bag and pulled her into a hug. "Izzy, I owe you so much."

Her friend stepped back with a smile. "I got to be the white knight this one time, it was all worth it for that alone. You owe me nothing. Come inside."

Kate shook her head. "Look, when will you and Jerome get hitched?"

Folding her arms, the smaller woman leaned against the doorway. "When we get back to the Rockport, as soon as things calm down. You're leaving, aren't you?"

"Izzy, me 'n' Rafe...it's complicated."

Kate was met with a wry, knowing smile. "I won't try to stop you, I know better than to break a wild horse. Promise me you'll go see White Cloud, meet your new niece or nephew, and come see me in the morning."

Kate was suddenly ashamed to remember her sister had given birth, and it had slipped her mind. "Damn, you're right. But why don't you come see me?"

"If that's what it takes, I can be at Hull House after breakfast."

Kate chucked her friend on the chin. "See you then. And I promise to be there for your wedding."

"I'll hold you to it."

Kate grabbed her bag, waved goodbye, and set down the hall for the side stairs. The door opened just as she reached it, and a man exited. She recognized him as the man with the strange accent who'd tried to speak with her early on in the "party."

Afraid to be recognized, she ducked her head and murmured an apology.

Once she made it to the alley, all that was left was to find Sweet, see White Cloud, and she'd be free to head west and clear her head.

***

Kate's heart ached. What had been intended to be one night had become three days. Three days of sharing old and new stories with her sister, her brother-in-law. Three days of holding the miracle that was her nephew.

Michael Eagle McMillan. He had his uncles eyes and lusty war cry, and when his little fists curled around her fingers Kate was lost, hopelessly in love.

And three days of her monthlies, which told her the miracle of a child was not hers.

She couldn't put it into words, but it was an aching hole in her heart. The thought of building anything with Rafe struck terror into her heart, but the dreams of a child with her hair, his eyes, that had been all to get her through her nights of captivity. She couldn't face Rafe now, could only hope time apart would cool his ardor and her own.

"This man haunts you," White Cloud said quietly, nursing her son on the third morning. "Why do you not go to him?"

"Your brother loved me, because I was wild and free. Your people, people of my heart, value that. But whites don't always. Look at the way I've lived. How could any man want me for a wife? How could I want to stay in one place, see the same four walls every day until I died?"

White Cloud's husband, Reverend William McMillan, came into the room with shining eyes and a smile for his wife and son. "Kate, I overheard. God gives us no greater gift than love, and love never restricts us. Love supports us, makes us greater than we are alone. If this young man truly loves you, as you do him, you will make it work any way you can."

She snorted at that. "Easy to say when you married a woman with the exact same dream as you Will; helping the unfortunate."

He kissed his wife's temple. "And blessed I am for that. But if she wanted to stay in the west and I here, we would have found a way to compromise. I love her so fiercely, I would do anything."

Kate bit her lip. Truthfully, she was jealous, always had been of their love. It was truly deep and undying.

Exactly what Izzy felt for Jerome. Izzy- "Oh God!" Kate shot to her feet. The happy couple looked at her with concern. "Izzy hasn't been here, I have to go check on her. It's not like her."

"Everything should be fine, the paper said McMasters is still in jail," Will said calmly. "But if it makes you feel better, you must attend to your friend."

"I'm sorry, I will be back," Kate promised, but she was halfway up the stairs to gather her things.

The hotel wasn't far, but the ride through the crowded streets seemed to take forever. When she found the hotel she tossed the reins and some coins to the porter and rushed in.

Kate hadn't even made the lift when a voice shouted her name. She turned and saw Jerome, looking haggard and tired.

"Jerome, wha-"

"Kate, is Isabella with you?"

"No, she was supposed to come see me-"

"When did you last see her?" He now gripped her arms, painfully.

"The night I left, I said goodbye. She was in her room, alone."

Jerome cursed like a miner with a failed vein. Even Kate's eyes widened. "What's going on?"

"She's missing, we thought she was with you. Rafe is out looking for you right now."

"I've been with my sister and her new son. I left Izzy at this hotel in one piece." Her mind raced. "Jerome, we thought those men following us were after me, but what if it's tied to those notes you were getting?"

He went ghostly white. "Benito Vercelli."

"Her brother in law?" Her heart stuttered. The man at the party had had a strange but familiar accent, as if Italian like Isabella, but from a different region. And he had been coming onto Izzy's floor via the side stairs, stairs used by staff only, stairs she had used to sneak out.

"Jerome, I think I saw him. I think he took her."

Deep anger possessed him so deeply he shook. "We have to find Rafe."

"Where would he take her?"

"New York or Boston, or wherever the fastest ship to Europe might be leaving from."

"I'm going there, now."

Only Jerome's hand stopped her. "Kate, out west you might be the Kid, and one of the best trackers, but in the states, it's Rafe."

Oh, she knew his reputation all too well, but the thought of facing him when she'd left, so cowardly, was a heavy weight.

"Well I gotta do something. My best friend is out there, I can't just sit still!"

"Kate, I'll go make sure everything with McMasters is on track, and none of us are needed until we can get back. You go upstairs, get Dan or Finnegan to wait here in the lobby, and if Rafe isn't back by then, go and find him. That's what you can do."

She nodded and watched him leave with an aching heart. Her best friend had been kidnapped, all signs had pointed to that happening, or Jerome meeting with an accident. But the second McMaster's entered her life, she'd forgotten all about it.

Izzy was in terrible danger, and it was all Kate's fault.

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