Kate the Kid Ch. 14bymadam_noe©
The day dawned brightly for the end of summer. In the rainbow colors of the leaves there was promise there in Boston, but everyone in their party knew they'd be headed back west and had to move before passes got snowed in.
Still there was a deep sense of excitement. Spotted Horse and his wife, Dan's sister, had shown up to join them, and Robert, despite being a citified lawman, fit right into the group. There was even talk of him leaving his post in Boston to come join their new venture out of Chicago.
Above that was the excitement of four people. Izzy had overseen Kate's gown without her permission, using the measurements Jerome had insisted be taken before they left for Europe. It was simple, it was white, it was elegant, but there were two considerations that made Kate grin. The skirt look like a skirt but was actually two wide legs, so she could run if she had to, and the bodice did not require and awful corset. She had grown to loathe those things and even bustles, a contraption Izzy adored.
Izzy's gown was as deeply cut as Kate's, a similar narrow column from the front, a more dramatic sweeping trail in back. Their hair had been expertly washed, smoothed, curled, teased, smoothed again, and set.
They sat for a photograph together, two brides giggling s much their image was blurred, but clearly a happy one.
Minutes before they were to escort each other down the aisle, a knock came at the door. "Come in," Kate called.
"No husbands allowed!" Izzy chimed in, giggling.
The door opened and there stood Finn and Dan, dressed in somber black suits, flowers in the lapels, their hair clubbed back and smooth, their cheeks freshly shaved. They looked almost respectable. The four friends just stared at one another until finally Dan broke the spell and walked over to gather both women in a hug.
"I am so happy for you. Gives me hope two confirmed bachelors like Finn and myself might have a chance."
"Of course you do," Izzy said a broad smile.
"Just pace yerself, fellas, there's only so many maids Jerome employs," Kate cracked wise.
Dan went to ruffle her hair but stopped. "Christ in a cornfield, it's like you ain't the Kid no more. You're Kate. Kate..."
At the shadow that passed over her face, Finn finally stepped forward. "MacNeil, as of today. Kate MacNeil. Kate, may I have a private word with you?"
"All right." Kate looked at her other two friends nervously but both just smiled. As she followed Finn behind a screen she heard Dan take a deep breath behind her and pose a question to which Izzy squealed in delight. "What's this all about?"
"Dan and me were talking, and we spoke with your husbands to be and they gave us our blessing. Spotted Horse and Rose are sitting where your family would, and Dan and I will take the grooms' side. But first we want to walk you down the aisle."
Kate's heart swelled and she hugged her friend. "Finn, that's wonderful!"
"Well, it's only right I give you away. I loved you first, but I'm no fool. It made me do some damn foolish things, and I know now I could never love you best, but your man can."
She looked at him, so handsome. His eyes were bright, his hair dark, similar coloring to Rafe, but his skin was Irish pale and his bones long and almost elegant. He was actually quite striking and she knew from their travels that half of the women who saw him feel in love. Finn was just going to have to open his eyes to the possibilities.
"Finn, I'll always love you as my brother. And there's no one I would rather have give me away." She hugged him then, not the usual bear hug of greeting but a forlorn oe of friendship. Finn closed his eyes, knowing this was the only chance he'd get to feel her in his arms.
"Kate, I'm so damn sorry about dragging you to Chicago. I meant to be all nice but then I saw you and Rafe, the way you looked at each other, and I got mean. I am so damn sorry."
She pulled back and saw tears pooling at the corners of his eyes, and she delicately reached up to wipe them away. "Finn, I can't say I'm not mad, but I've forgiven you. I'll forget some day, but I have forgiven you. You'll have to be satisfied with that."
He nodded and stood, holding a hand to her. They smoothed their clothes, laughed nervously, and joined Izzy and Dan, holding the bouquets. Dan passed Kate hers.
Izzy quick like a fox kissed Kate on the cheek. "Here's to the greatest adventure yet to come."
Rafe was in a daze. After Faith had died, his life had changed. Alone in the world, hungering for revenge against a government that was his own, he felt like he'd been tilting at windmills. Turning his anger to outlaws it had been something to keep him busy, but life had been empty for him.
And then a gun fighting, redheaded firebrand had come into his life and turned it upside down. Now he had friends, real true friends, and place to belong. At Kate's side was good enough for him, he thought with a smile.
In his arms Kate moved gracefully, missing a few steps here and there, but following his movements. Fait had made him cultured, made him learn dancing and all manner of useless nonsense, and finally he was glad.
"I love you, Mrs. MacNeil."
She stopped and stood on her toes to kiss him softly. "I love you too, Rafe, and I sure as hell ain't gonna call you mister."
He grinned wider. "That's my girl. I know we've been busy preparing for the wedding all week and we've hardly gotten a minute alone. What's say we sneak off?"
"I would kill to get out of this silly dress and ridiculous shoes."
"As my lady commands," he smiled at her and Kate's body warmed at the sensual promise.
"Stay here for a few minutes, dance with Spotted Horse, he's heading this way. Come and find me in our room in five minutes."
"Can do," Kate said, beaming at him, her own light gaze glowing with sensuality.
His heart, and admittedly things lower, warmed and swelled.
Rafe moved on air, smiling. On impulse he grabbed a bottle of champagne and two glasses from the bar and snuck out a side door from the ballroom, hading for the back stairs and the room Jerome had given them, but only for after the marriage.
He trotted up the stairs humming an old tune from the bayou, smiling and skipping, feeling like the grandest man on earth.
Suddenly the champagne bottle exploded in his hand. Rafe stopped, skidding on the red carpet on the landing, dumbstruck. Then another shot rang out and the window exploded. He crumpled to the ground, still dumbfounded, and then he saw the blood coming from his upper arm.
Instinct kicked in and he tossed the glasses, and rolled to the wall. He had no gun, damn it, he was dressed in a fine evening suit for his wedding, not for a gun fight. The shots kept coming but he ignored them , checking his arm. It had just grazed him and would hurt like hell, but otherwise be fine as long as he cleaned it and bandaged it.
If he ran up the second flight he'd be a target, downstairs as clear, but Rafe had had enough shootouts in gullies to know when he was being herded. The shots were small, .22, a caliber one didn't see much in the city except in small pistols and the marksmanship her suggested a rifle.
Well hell, he'd been hit by a .22 enough times to know it hurt but didn't do any real damage. On that thought he made it to his feet and dashed up the stairs during the brief pause which he assumed was owed to reloading.
A vase shattered over his shoulder as he dove and rolled in the bright hallway. It was broad daylight, only a madman would attempt this. Still, the shots and explosions hadn't brought anyone, the wedding was so loud and raucous.
"Jerome! Dan! Finn!" He yelled as more shots came. He volleyed the names three times before the door opened.
"Stay down there, rifle, twenty-two, through the window. I have no gun."
"Shit nobody does," Finn swore. "Jerome made us lock 'em away."
"I thought there was no more threat, what with MacMasters in jail and Franco dead. Perhaps this is just someone who wants to kill Rafe," Jerome aid with surprisingly calm nerves. "I'd get our guns but they're upstairs in my safe."
"Damn fools, yer leavin; my husband up there alone?" Kate came storming in. "I had a feeling something like this was going to happen." She reached under her skirt and from the area of the fake bustle, folds of cloth, she drew her .44 Army issue Scoffield. "Who am I looking for?"
"I have no idea. And sweetheart?"
"Toss me your gun."
She stared up at the spot his voice came from, hidden from view as Rafe was. "No way in hell, buddy."
"Damn it, Kate!"
She grinned at her friends and pulled two pins from her hair. Juggling her gun she swiftly stuck them so they pulled the legs of her "skirt" tight. She kicked off her shoes and nodded to Jerome.
"I'll flush 'em out or provide cover. When you hear me shooting, make a run for it. You and Rafe can get the guns and hopefully by then I'll have this shooter."
"I'm sorry this had to happen on your wedding day," he offered.
She grinned at him and Izzy. "Hell, I ain't." And with that, Kate loped outside.
Inside she heard the party being contained in the ballroom, which was good. All the people of Boston seemed to be tenderfoots of the greenest horns, and worryin' about them was far more of a distraction.
So was the damn dress, but when Kate thought back to Rafe's expression when he'd first seen it, all the boning and stiff fabric was well worth it.
The houses on the hill were pressed close to one another so she scanned windows and doorways of neighbors first. None seemed like a good sniper's nest, so that meant the critter she was after was in the trees.
The shots had stopped, perhaps the shooter had seen her leave, or he was reloading. Silently.
She pulled a strip off her skirt and pressed herself to a corner. When the breeze stirred, she let it go, floating out. A crack rang out and a bullet whizzed past.
She checked her ammo and said under her breath, "fuck it." Putting her gun around she got off three shots before looking.
The returns fire scattered, so a bullet had come close. After the next shot, which winged the bricks above her head, she found the shooter's perch in a tree.
She came out, gun blazing, shooting with precise, measure, but fast action. "Jerome, now!" she yelled through the broken window and crept forward.
At long last she heard metal and a rifle dropped from the trees, but no body followed. A part of her was relieved, she'd never had to kill anyone yet, but another part was annoyed, wondering how many men and how many weapons were up there.
Se held her piece but then another shot cracked off and she unloaded all her bullets. Explosions from the window came, the sound of a rifle and a volley of hand guns.
When the puffs of smoke cleared there were two bodies, one hanging from the tree limb, the other on the ground. They were dressed like Easterners and didn't look familiar.
"They're dead!" She called out.
"Hang loose, Kate," Dan responded.
She came over, gun still on the bodies though her ammo was gone. If they were alive, they might not know that, and this trick had saved her life more than a few times.
She kicked the one on the ground but he was really truly dead. She jerked her gun up to the one in the tree but his dead eyes gave the tell-tale glassy stare of the departed.
She started going through the pockets of the one on the ground. She found a wallet with a few paper dollars in it and a pay stub signed by a Whittaker. The name rang a distant bell but she shoved it aside.
There was nothing else on the first one except an open pocket watch engraved with the initials NT. The one from the tree was too high for her to reach so she stood back.
Rafe was the first around the corner and he looked killing mad. She saw the wound on his arm and knew her expression likely darkened.
"You damn, dumb fool!" she yelled, and that stopped him short.
"Me? You're the one who came out here shooting at assassins on her wedding day, in a damned gown! I am not a fool, you are!"
She fought the urge to spit and just glared at him as the others caught up.
Rafe cursed and then he was kissing her, hard. Anger was in every line of his body but it flowed quickly to another kind of a passion that left them breathless when he pulled back.
Finn was looking over the man on the ground while Jerome and Dan pulled the one from the tree down.
"That one's initials are NT and he had a pay stub from somebody named Whittaker."
Jerome paused. "Shit. Dan, let's find whatever we can on this one. Izzy?"
Izzy rushed to his side. "What does this mean? I thought Jane diappeared."
"She did, but doesn't mean her father wouldn't have a grudge. It just makes no sense to kill me."
"Well perhaps they were shooting at Rafe on purpose," Dan suggested, turning the dead man over and searching carefully.
"Doubt it," Rafe said, hugging Kate tight. "It was purely by chance I was passing by those windows."
Finn rocked back on his heels, considering. "They could have been early, laying in wait. Eventually the first people up those stairs would be the two wedded couples."
"And this one here has a note to shoot at the tall brunette groom." Dan grinned at that. "'Bout as specific as saying squash a black ant at a picnic."
"What does this mean?" Izzy asked her new husband.
"Anything else, Dan?"
"Some lira. Interesting that these eastern boys should have Italian money." Dan said this darkly , making Izzy gasp.
Jerome held her tighter. "I was afraid of this. Whittaker has no reason to want me dead, or he didn't. Franco did. Franco always was a weasel, of course he'd partner up with Whittaker. How that Izzy has sole control of her company Whittaker might bass-ackwards assume I have it."
"Revenge or plotting, I don't know, but I think we'd best get inside. Finn, Dan, hate to ask this, but can you take care of things?" Kate asked.
"Too many witnesses, we'll have to go through the police. Robert's inside, he can help."
"Thank you," Rafe said. "Now I need to get some stitches, and I do believe that duty falls to my wife."
Kate snorted. "Only because you stitch like a drunk woman. Come on."
"I think it's best we follow. We're entitled to disappear." Jerome kissed Izzy on top of her head.
She looked up at him. "Won't the guests miss us?"
"They have music, dancing, food, and more booze than an druggists' convention. They'll hardly notice."
"Then by all means..." She gave him a smile and they followed the other bride and groom back inside.
As soon as they got in the room Rafe slammed Kate back against the closed door. "I thought I'd lost you, woman."
"I thought I'd lost you. Now shut up 'n' kiss me, Rafe."
He did, fiercely and possessively. His lips slanted across hers and Kate eagerly parted them, letting him sink inside. The man seemed bund and determined to have it his way, and she was more than happy to let him. The sight of him bloodied had shaken her to her core and she needed to feel his strength.
His hands were all over, hers on him, but both were clothed over their bodies, only their faces and hands were out. With a growl, Rafe grabbed her skirt and rugged. It ripped off and Kate stepped from awkwardly, pressed as she was between the cool door and his hot, hard body.
His hands felt her stockings and the fussy underwear Izzy had made her wear and he groaned. "Sweetheart," he laid his lips to her forehead. With that endearment he tore her pantaloons, grabbed her by the waist, and hauled her up.
Kate herself knew what he was after and her hands, when not scrambling to steady herself, sought out his pants. Rafe was single minded, and as his teeth nipped her in a searing kiss to her neck he batted her hands away. Rafe freed himself and as they clutched at one another, he thrust into her.
Kate hadn't been prepared but in its own way, the sensation was delicious. He filled her, the heat of his body surrounded her, even through all the cloth. His lips sought hers out and they stayed locked for a long minute.
"I love you," he pulled back to whisper.
"And I- oh!" Her eyes widened as he pulled back out and sank in almost violently.
He repeated the action and she caught his lips against hers, crying out at the slowly spreading feeling of deep pleasure that contrasted the fast and furious movements of Rafe's hips.
"Damn it," he breathed, confusing her.
His body stopped leaving her panting against him. "Damn it, man, move or I'll die!"
"Not yet, sweetheart," he groaned and ripped open the bodice of her dress. Tugging with only one hand, the other supporting her weight, he released the dusky rose tips of her breasts and ducked his head down.
Kate threw her head back at the cool brush of his breath and the searing heat of his mouth as he enveloped her. She writhed in vain, trying to move him, to bring back the deeper pleasure, but Rafe stayed her with his rock hard stance.
He teased, cajoled, and seduced her with his clever tongue and she was ready to grab him by the hair and drag him to bed. At long last Rafe seemed to come up from his sensual haze and again she felt him moving.
His hand coasted down to slip between them, and the pad of his thumb hit the sensitive nubbin of flesh. It was too much when his kiss slid down her neck, over her chest, to claim a nipple. His body rocked hers, filling her deep, pulling forth a hunger and pushing in satisfaction.
The sensations crashed and she screamed out his name on a long wailing cry stopped only by a hasty kiss. Before the spasms subsided Rafe was shouting his own release, and Kate eagerly drank it from him.
When the storm passed Kate slid down onto shaky legs, laughing. "Seems we're just not meant to do it live two civilized people."
"Woman, I've had civilized, I want you." He bent down and the kiss he gave her took her breath.
It was then she noticed the blooding seeping out over his dark coat. "Rafe! Take off your jacket and shirt and let me see you."
"A bit late for that, isn't it?"
She glared and marched over to the robe waiting on the bed for her. Wrapping herself in it she crossed to her bags where she found the small kit. Rafe pulled his coat and dress shirt off, leaving the white undershirt on. In the dimming light o the day he was still every inch as beautiful as the first time she saw him.
"Let's get you sown up."
"I knew there were advantages to having a wife."
She raised a red brow. "I don't mend shirts, I don't cook except on the range, so don't be getting ideas."
"Why don't you cook off the range?"
"We got us a chef at the Rockport, French and everything, mighty good."
"I have a heard time imagining you running a hotel- ow!"
She smiled but kissed his skin. "Almost done. And I don't do much, just tally the ledgers, keep any rough customers out, and calm Izzy when she's panicking over something."
"Kate, have you thought about how your life will change? Not just you and I, not just Jerome and Izzy, but your mother's money, this new shipping and transport venture."
"Rafe, one thing at a time. The best lesson any of us gunfighters can ever learn is one fight at a time."
She cut off the thread and he grabbed her hands. Not the soft delicate things of most women he knew they were callused and strong. And they felt so damn good on his body that was all he could think of.
Somehow Kate knew his hungry kiss meant "I love you," and this time it was she who whispered it against his lips. Even as they took a tumble into ecstasy Kate felt in the back of her mind, her words were only too true. One gunfight at a time, and the next shooter was due.