Kate the Kid Ch. 10-11bymadam_noe©
Authors Note: Dedicated to Zoee with great thanks. Without your brilliant suggestions this chapter could not have been written! Also, this chapter is labeled as 10-11 but appears in the novel as Chapter 11. This has been done to sync up the Literotica chapters with the novel's chapters.
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The furthest into the states Kate had ever been was Chicago or St. Louis. They were settled and civilized, to be sure, but they were still very much frontier towns. The clothes each year got more and more dandy on the citizens, guns seen less and less, but the air of freedom and expectation was there.
Now Kate was delving deeper east, and she felt like that King Odysseus in one of Izzy's stories; searching for home after a war only to face monster after monster, danger after danger.
Sweet was boarded up with White Cloud and her family, and Kate knew her beloved horse was safe. She'd left word with Dan Forth of her plans, knowing Finn was as high-handed as Rafe and Jerome and would never let her go east alone.
With each stop she drew more and more stares. Something had changed, and no matter what she did, Kate was not passing for a boy, and here women did not wear pants like men. Oh, she knew there was that nurse from the civil war walking around in her old pants from her uniform, but the woman had a letter from congress granting her permission.
At a general store Kate plunked down some gold for two dresses of simple muslin cloth. She had to wait for the train to make another stop before she could change, and it felt odd.
Her time with McMasters had made her more and more used to dresses, but those had been heavy, of fine cloth, very restrictive. These cheaper ones store-bought and not tailored were loose, and long enough to hide her boots, though the distinctive thud of them sounded as she walked. On that, Kate would not budge.
She wore her duster now to cover her guns, having been told by many passengers in the saloon cars that an armed woman would be arrested. She knew she made an odd sight, but she was ready for anything.
Boston was her first target. A wire to Finn's cousin Robert Finnegan had told her Benito Vercelli had entered the country through Boston Harbor, and it washer guess that's how he'd leave.
Boston was magnificent. There seemed to be as many people in the crowded, dirty city as there were in all of California, if not more. Garbage lay in streets, buildings were slammed together, but the city had a sense of life to it that amazed her.
She found herself stopping constantly, gawking like a country mouse. A few times she'd tried her hand at gathering information in saloons and taverns, but Kate quickly learned only women for sale entered these establishments in the city.
She needed, Kate hated to say, a man.
Robert had directed her to the Irish neighborhood. Here the smell of garbage and death was strong, people crowded tightly as they bustled about, and more than one pickpocket tried their hand on Kate only to feel her squeezing grip break a finger or two.
On wooden posts at every street corner strange flags and sometimes dead animals were strung up. She learned from an old woman begging for bread on the street these heralded gang territory.
The gangs Kate knew, like the Cowboys, were loose packs of men riding through towns and range, killing, raping, and stealing. The gangs here were more organized, staying in one spot, and all crimes from murder to pick pocketing were orchestrated and monitored.
The address she'd been given was a tea house, and outside lounged what city dwellers called ladies of ill repute, their bodies nearly bare their eyes glassy and hollow. The looked her up and down but made no greeting or other move as she stepped inside.
Inside was a long counter with only two jars on it, behind it an old woman who looked like a grizzled tree. There were two small tables, both empty, and flies buzzed in a corner where a crack in the walls had been stuffed with a dirty rag.
"No beggars! No coin; get out!" The woman said with a thick brogue.
"I have money, and I'm meeting Robert Finnegan here."
The woman's skin went from molasses to moon-pale in a flash. "Have a seat dearie, I'll bring ya a clean pot o' tea and a cup."
Kate resisted dusting one ancient-looking chair and sat with her back to the corner, watching the door and wavy leaded-glass window to the street below.
The small woman moved quickly, cleaning the tea pot and cup with a rag as dirty as that in the wall. She set the pot to boil filled with water from a tub that looked like dishwater.
Kate tried to stop her stomach's grumbling, knowing she wanted nothing from the strange little shop.
Outside the people in the street seemed to go on alert, like animals at a watering hole sensing a coyote. Kate sat up and fingered her gun as the people in front of the shop parted, and a dark shape climbed the four narrow stairs to the porch where the glass-eyed women cooed to him.
The door opened to reveal a man unmistakably Finn's cousin. Taller than Finn, he was broader, and thick with muscle, but he had the same black hair and bright blue eyes. He was younger than Finn, closer to her own age, but his eyes were crinkled attesting to time spent outdoors that complemented his slight tan.
"You must be the Kid."
Kate stood and nodded touching the brim of her hat as was habit. At the gesture, which she knew was strange for a woman in the east, he raised a dark brow. "And you must be hisself, what do I call you?"
"Robert will be fine. And how are you, Janet?" He turned to the old woman who was trembling.
"I be as fit as a fiddle, sir."
Robert crossed to the counter and peeled off fresh currency, dollars Kate barely recognized, living in a world of gold as she did. "That's for your time, and silence. We won't be staying, but we were never here, yes?"
The woman took the money and nodded. "God bless ya sir, faith and my eyes know you were ne'er here."
He nodded and held his arm out to Kate. "You'll need food and a place to rest, I assume."
She crossed to him but didn't take the arm. "That'd be wonderful, thank you."
Shrugging he turned and led her onto the street. To her amazement people on the street turned their eyes to the ground, and parted for him like he was the richest sky-pilot in the area.
He led her to an alley that was cleaner than the others she'd seen, and up rickety wooden stairs he led her to a balcony. Chairs sat outside doors, many of them occupied by old men and very young men and women. All had hungry eyes, and the coloring of pure Irish. Seeing a few redheads, Kate slipped off her hat, knowing she wouldn't command too much attention.
"Here we-" Robert turned back to her and froze.
She felt herself blushing under his inspection, not that she was attracted to him. Oh, he was an attractive man, but after Rafe MacNeil, no men raised her pulse a bit. No, it was the knowledge that dawned on her; she was a woman alone in a land where women were powerless.
"Are," Robert finished with a smile.
He opened a door and she peered inside to see a cushioned chair, writing desk, a decent-looking rope bed, and a small table with a chamber pot and washbasin.
"Why don't you wash up and change, then we'll eat, and we can begin our search."
Nodding, Kate watched him close the door before breathing a sigh of relief. What was it about the Finnegan men?
Rafe stepped off the train killing mad. He was sick of Kate running from him. Damn it, she was most likely going to be the mother of his child, the damn fool woman should have more sense than to run from a seasoned tracker.
Dan and Finn were laughing at him, at least with their eyes. For all the hell Finn had put him through, the man was growing on him, all Kate's friends were. Dan Forth was quiet, watchful, but he had a sharp sense of humor. Finn may be a bit naïve, but his heart was in the right place.
The only one who sympathized with him was Jerome. His oldest and dearest friend was scared for Isabella, and Rafe had never seen Jerome scared. The man hunted bears, presided over one of the largest companies in the world, laughed in the face of danger.
Now he was pale and drawn, his jaw set tight to hide his nerves, but his wringing hands gave him away.
At least Rafe hoped being back in his hometown would help his friend. Jerome might look to the world a polished businessman, but he'd grown up in the slums, and he knew every alley and corner in the city. They'd find Isabella, but Kate was another matter.
"Where to first?" Dan asked quietly, watching the parade of all classes along the train platform.
"We find my cousin, you and I," Finn replied. "Jerome you and Rafe should go check in at home. If Isabella managed to get word out to you, it'll be there."
"I'd like to go with you," Rafe barely ground out.
Finn clapped him on the back. "I'm sure we'll find Kate soon enough, but I'd rather you calm down a bit before you see her. I'd not like to have you wring my friend's throat."
"She deserves it," Dan snorted and started down the platform for their bags.
Finn raised a brow and shook his head, stepping closer to Rafe. "Keep an eye on Jerome, he looks ready to burst. He needs you right now. We know where to find you, and after I find my cousin, we'll come get you. If Izzy's left town already, we'll know, and I'll make sure Kate doesn't follow. Not without us."
Rafe nodded after a long moment, reigning in his own temper. Isabella was the main concern now, Kate could wait.
Jerome had sent word and his carriage was waiting for them, the driver dressed smartly. He nodded briskly and grabbed their bags from their hands before either man could protest, holding the door open.
Inside the carriage Jerome seemed at home. He'd long ago changed back into the clothes of a citified gentleman, and now Rafe felt like the odd man out.
"We'll find Izzy. I'd be surprised if Kate didn't have her already, and Benito tied to a chair waiting for you."
This drew a tired a smile from his friend. "I can see it, that Kate has a mighty fine temper, but a cool head. I'm sure whatever she's doing, she's being careful."
Rafe thought for a moment of his child in Kate's arms. A beautiful little girl, perhaps, who looked just like her mother. Or perhaps a strong boy, again like his mother. Kate was the one with looks between them. He smiled. "I hope so."
An hour later and both men were at their wits' end. No messages from Izzy or Kate, and none of Jerome's business contacts had heard word of Benito Vercelli in town.
Jerome had thrown two tumblers into the fire and Rafe had had to fend off two eager maids while blushing guiltily. Both men felt they were lost.
"Sir," Jerome's man announced after clearing his throat at the open door. "A Misters Finnegan and Forth to see you both, gentlmen."
"Send them in," Jerome growled, and loosened his cravat.
Dan and Finn entered with big grins, though Finn's was directed at one of the maid's Rafe had turned away. "We've found Kate, she's safe, and I spoke with my cousin's man," Fin said, slumping into a chair rudely uninvited. He dug out a cheroot and offered them around, Dan and Rafe each partaking. "She has a great idea. If Benito is kidnapping, your business friend wouldn't know about it, but the criminal underworld would. Kate and Robert will be hitting the saloons tonight to get information. I know the territory, and he and will split it. I'll take Rafe, we'll do fine in the Irish neighborhoods, Jerome you and Dan can cover the saloons held by other gangs."
"Gangs?" Jerome asked and withdrew a fine cigar from his crested humidor.
"The world works no differently in companies, cities, or the west, Jerome. Where is Kate now?" Rafe growled out.
Finn grinned like a wicked creature of myth about to play a prank. "She's safe enough with Robert. Nobody will touch her if they think she's his gal."
Rafe choked on the swig of bourbon he'd just downed. "What?!"
"It's just an illusion," Dan quickly replied. "We'd better get a move on, the supper crowds will be settling in after work soon, and Jerome, you need to change before you get kidnapped."
Jerome looked down at his formal suit. "What's wrong with this?"
The laughter at least made him smile.
Kate was excited and jumpy. After hitting two saloons she'd begun to feel more than a little irate. She'd never had to depend on a man for protection before, and now the only thing that was keeping her from being carried off into the night was Robert's large frame and fierce glower. She also suspected a rough reputation to equal his cousin's.
At the second saloon they'd found a man deep in his cups who had a story. He'd wanted money, and though Kate had tried to pull out her own gold the high-handed Robert had brushed her aside.
The man's name was Reynolds, and just that day he'd placed an Italian man and a furious, gagged woman on a ship bound for Italy. A ship owned by none other than Vercelli Shipping.
"Well, I need to book passage as soon as possible," Kate said to Robert as they left the smoky, crowded saloon.
He took her arm and she fought the urge to move away. What was wrong with her? She was her own woman, she had no ties to Rafe, and Robert Finnegan was young, smart, and devilishly handsome. Women started at him in awe, and she felt nothing.
"The offices will be open in the morning, I can show you where to go on the wharf. I'll come with, make sure they don't cheat you."
She stopped short. "You're not-"
"Going to Italy with you?" He laughed. "Hardly, I have work to do here. Let's get you some food, get you settled in bed, and then I have some business to attend to."
Breathing a sigh of relief, she took his arm again and fell into step. "Food sounds wonderful."
The night was in full darkness when something woke her. For two nights now she'd lain awake late into the evening, unable to sleep with city noise. There were so many people, the air was so dirty, she wondered how people could live like this.
When she did sleep she dreamt of the open range, the clean air, the clear water. It struck her upon waking that second night that since she'd met Rafe, the nightmares had stopped.
A knock sounded at the door, heavy and impatient.
"Hang on just a dang minute!" She hollered and turned over. Stumbling around for a match she struck it and lit the small lantern on the table by the bed.
Despite the coolness of the night by the sea, Kate was sleeping as she always did; in a blouse. She found the silly dress she'd spent the day in and draped it loosely over her, shoving her messy braid inside.
She opened the door and expected to see Robert, but instead the sight greeting her stopped her heart.
Rafe was scruffy. His hair, though neatly trimmed, was messy, and he had a thick growth of three or so days of beard across his face. Above it his green eyes fairly glowed.
His clothes were still western, his collar open to reveal tan skin and the beginnings of chest hair.
All Kate could do was blink, expecting him to start screaming. His forearm was braced on one side of the door, a large hand gripped the other side, pinning her as a captive audience.
Instead he moved so fast she couldn't stop him, and he drew her into his arms.
"Don't ever run, again," he growled, his lips brushing hers, and then he crushed their mouths together.
Her head spun, and all conscious thought flew from her mind as Kate clasped him back. Rafe backed her into the room and kicked the door shut with such force the furniture and window rattled.
He stopped long enough to rip her dress off and that cleared her foggy mind. "Hey! I only have two of those, y'know!"
He growled like a mountain lion and yanked her shirt over her head until she was naked, then Rafe stood back, staring at her body up and down as if memorizing it.
"Did you let him touch you?"
He stepped close again, menacing. "Finn's damn cousin."
She slapped him without thinking and he took it, his head coming back slowly, his green eyes murderous.
He moved like lightning and they crashed to the bed. He was still fully dressed, dusty, his belt buckle gouging into the soft skin of her belly painfully.
His lips distracted her, smothering her in a soul-searing kiss, and his hands roamed her body with an urgency she felt rising in her own body.
She pulled his hat off as his mouth slid across her cheek to burn a path along her throat. She moaned and was rewarded with a small nip of hiss teeth.
Digging her fingers in his hair she tried to pull him off but he wrapped her in a bear hug, trapping Kate breathlessly. One jean-clad leg slid between hers, rubbing slowly, and she arched her back at the grinding sensation.
"Kate," he breathed against her neck, nipping at her collarbone. She shivered helplessly, lost to sensation, craving more.
"Damn it, Rafe," she growled and managed to get her hands between them. She tugged at his belt, shoving the denim down a few inches until he helped her.
Pushing back until her was on his elbows his hard erection teased her mound while his eyes searched hers. "Are you sure, honey?"
She ignored the endearment and grabbed the collar of his shirt. With one tug she opened it, baring his chest to her gaze. "Now, MacNeil, now!"
He surged into with one swift thrust and she bit her lip to keep from screaming with pleasure. She felt the warmth of his body to her bones, and once joined, something felt so right she could barely comprehend it.
"Move it," she grumbled when he kept still.
"Damn it, woman, I won't let you use me."
She reached for his face to try and pull him into a kiss but he ducked her, wrapped her tight once more, and rolled until they were on their sides.
The angle was different, and the pleasure widened her eyes. "Do something," she pleaded only to be rewarded with a chuckle.
"Women, I'll take my time with you. If I know you, you'll run before first light. I want every minute until sunrise."
To prove his point he pulled back and sank in slowly, sending shivers coursing through both their bodies.
"Yes, please!" Kate gasped and something broke in Rafe. Hands on her hips he rocked their bodies together in a constant, slow slide. The please in Kate's mind spiraled through her instead of building like steam in a tea kettle.
She closed her eyes and sought his lips and with Rafe found a breathless kiss. Her mind spun, her aching nipples grazed his rough chest hair, and the pleasure of him deep inside her built slowly, maddeningly.
The first peak crashed like a surging wave and she screamed into his mouth, nails digging into flesh as her body jerked and trembled.
Rafe sucked in her holler, determined to hold back his own pleasure. There was little he had in this world to convince Kate he was her man, but what little he did have he'd use like a gun.
For hours they didn't talk, instead everything they felt was shared through their bodies. Rafe made her kneel and grasp the headboard, claiming her from behind like a stag, making her swoon with pleasure. He took her body in ways she'd never dreamed, each new pleasure a treasured discovery.
She lost count of the peaks, his few and far between, but his cries of pleasure drowned hers out.
They took breaks where he lit a cheroot, letting Kate take pulls. She coughed through a few and mellowed on the sweet cherry-flavored tobacco.
Words beyond simple demands and cries of pleasure did not pass until morning. Only when Kate was soft and pliant against him did Rafe trust his voice.
"Marry me, Kate."
She gave a start, but before she could speak he turned and leaned up on one elbow, looming over her, his face open and earnest. "I know you're with child, I know it's mine. I want you to be my wife. I want a family. We can live wherever you want, we can ranch. Hell, you can run the ranch if you want and I'll watch our son. Or daughter."