How You Play It
by S Derkins
© 1999

Disclaimers: The characters in this story share some similarities with a few of our favorite people. This fictional work is owned by myself and is not to be distributed, or copied in part or full without my expressed written permission.

Sexual Warnings: This story revolves around the romance of two young women. Please, give me no grief over 'underage' sex. In the era of this story, they would have been considered being at a marriageable age. It also touches on incest. If this story would bother you or if you are a minor, please, find something else to read. Also contains swearing and rough language.

Violence Warning: There is a rather brutal ending and some may find it disturbing.

Slaughter of the English Language Warning: Several of my characters could make English teachers all over the world cringe.

Note from Author: I wasn't totally comfortable writing the original story as a mild BSDM type, even though I had written it to fit in with others at the 101 Aurellian Nights. So, true to my nature, I started recreating it into a mushy romance while still keeping a touch of the naughtiness. Unfortunately, the Muse often takes my ideas and goes off on her own tangents. It also will expand on the story, fulfilling the wish of several whom asked for a sequel.

The names of the towns are purely fictional. or forward to LynKa at :


Kate Randell looked out from the window of her private hideaway at the scene below. The abandoned building gave her a place to stay when her father came home drunk, which was more often than not. As she looked down, she saw her father, the local sheriff, had what looked like a painful hold on that preacher's daughter who he was dragging her towards the jail. Kate felt a wave of pity for the teenager who was resisting the sheriff's manhandling.

Ruth, the girl being dealt with so roughly, had the misfortune of being young, pretty, and without the protection of a man. Her father had passed away a few months earlier, leaving the blonde girl an orphan. Now, obviously, her desperation had brought her more trouble than she could handle.

The silver mine had hit bottom and with its failure, the town had emptied out except for a few hardy souls. One merchant, a few families in the surrounding farms, the saloon, and a few old-timers remained. Only one had been willing to take in the Preacher's kid after his death. Now the daughter was in custody. Kate had known it would have been a matter of time before Carl Randell would have found an excuse to take her into his jail.

At the idea of the girl's fate, the tall teenager shuddered, feeling the familiar queasiness claw at her stomach. Memories, long since pushed into a dark corner of her mind, tormented her. Unable to look any longer, the ice-blue eyes turned away.


Ruth fell to gritty cell floor as Sheriff Randell released his grip on her upper arm. She yelped at the sudden pain caused by the scraping of her palms against the rough plank floor, and as the petite blonde raised herself to her feet, she could hear the metallic clank of the door slamming shut. Ruth turned to face the large-gutted man.

"Please, I'll work off my debt to the baker-anything, but don't lock me up in here!" she pleaded.

"Too bad girlie. 'Til Ol' Joe says otherwise, yer staying right here. Fer right now, you'll cool yer heels while I git me a drink, Maybe you and me ken work somethin' out later…ta pay back yer debt to society, Miz Seaton," he leered as his hand fondled his trousers. The sheriff turned around and pulled open the jail door.

"Kate!" he bellowed. He waited impatiently for his daughter to show up. Once she was within his view, he ordered her to go inside the jail. The tall girl crept reluctantly through the doorway. A solid kick to her denimed rear sent her in faster as he took one more glance at his newest prize.

"Git in there and keep an eye on her. I'm gonna go git me a drink. I'll be back later," he informed Kate as he shut the door. The sheriff's daughter glanced uneasily at her new charge behind the bars. Pale green eyes met her own, filled with worry. Unable to withstand the misery she saw there, Kate sat down at the desk and opened the drawer, pulling out a worn deck of cards. The sheriff's daughter intended to ignore the girl as best she could. Practiced hands shuffled and set up a game of solitaire.

Ruth sat down on the dusty cot with a weary sigh. What was she going to do? She had been at the baker's shop, attempting to bargain with the dour old man for day old bread. She had been without food for several days and what little money she and the old man who had taken her in was now gone. Ruth had hoped she could work for the baker in exchange for food. Next thing she knew, Ol' Joe was shouting after one of the Mason boys who had just pilfered a loaf of bread. The baker had accused her of being in cahoots with him and shouted for the sheriff.

'I'm sorry Papa, I failed you,' she thought, hoping her father could forgive her. The small woman grimaced. Chances were, the trouble-making boy had taken off towards his family farm. Seth had been in some sort of mischief or another of late. The Masons were a rough crowd and had never attended her father's church services. 'At least they have something to eat,' she thought bitterly.

Ruth's stomach rumbled at the memory of the last meal she had, two days previously.

"Hungry?" her keeper asked, her voice remarkably deep for someone so young. She looked up at the girl sitting at the desk. The dark-haired girl was dressed in men's clothing: shirt, vest, faded denims and scuffed boots. If it weren't for her long hair and her… well, generous proportions, one would think she was a skinny boy with an ever-present scowl.

"Yes. I haven't eaten for several days."

"I'll be back. Law says ya can't starve a prisoner." The gangly teen got to her feet and left the building. Ruth waited perhaps twenty minutes before the girl returned with a metal plate.

"Not much," she said in apology as she handed the plate of beans and pork through the opening in the door.

"Thank you…?"

"Kate," she grunted.

"Kate. As hungry as I am, this is a banquet! Thank you!" she said with a smile. Ruth reached out with her hand and touched Kate's fingers as a thank you, only to feel a sudden and delightful thrill course through her. At the touch, Kate's eyes widened in shy pleasure and the unfriendly expression left her face. The prisoner watched as the angry youth transformed into a pretty and bashful young woman.

Kate returned to the desk and her card game; hoping her face wasn't as red as it felt. She had developed a crush on the preacher's daughter several years ago that had never faded. Although they had never been friends, merely passing one another on the street once in a while, Kate couldn't forget her. Cursing her weakness over the pretty blonde and the lingering sensation of her touch, she resumed her game, only to play badly.

"Do you watch over prisoners often?" Ruth asked between bites.

Kate grunted, not trusting her voice. Silence. The only sound was that of Ruth's enamel spoon scraping against the plate.

"Do you know what's going to happen to me?" the blonde's voice asked nervously.

The sheriff's daughter squirmed uncomfortably. She knew what her father would probably do, and as things stood, there wasn't much she could do about it. Fear of her father had kept her silent all these years. Even after the beatings, the drunken behavior, even after… Kate slammed the cards down, refusing to remember those times. She had learned to avoid her father when he drank, slipping away for her own safety. Guilt tore at the dark-haired girl. 'But Ruth can't hide from him, can she? He'll come in here, drunker than a skunk and tell me to leave. Then he'll…'

She pushed the image away, finding it painful, but her imagination filled in the future against her will. She saw her father as he drunkenly tore at Ruth's dress, touched her, hurting and rough, and then… something snapped inside. Kate wanted to be the one who touched her soft skin, to kiss those lips, to rest her head on those breasts-not her son of a bitch father! With that admission to herself, a plan began forming in the back of her mind.

"Ruth, I want ta help ya, but there's a catch."

"What do you mean?" the green-eyed girl asked.

"I'll get ya out of town, help ya find a new home, but I want somethin' from ya in return," Kate told her firmly.

"What? And why should I leave town?" she asked with worry.

"My Pa, he'd…well, wants ya in his bed, if'n ya know what I mean?"

"Kate, I wouldn't give away my virginity!" she vowed as she rushed to the bars.

"Wouldn't be a matter of givin' it away-he'd take it," the tall youth explained to the girl. The preacher's daughter paled at the thought. Frightened, she sat down heavily on the cot. Both remained silent for long minutes, finally, Ruth spoke.

"What do you want from me?"

"I…well, I want to touch ya. I know I'm a bitch for even doin' this, but I've always wanted ya. I'm not like my Pa, I promise not ta hurt ya. I just want one night ta be with ya." Kate new she was blithering but didn't care.

"You're…you're one of… those…people?" the frightened girl asked. The sheriff's daughter shrugged, unsure whether or not Ruth would or could understand. How would the preacher's daughter react if she were told she was the only person in this world she'd be willing to allow that close? That just by being herself, she had unwittingly crawled inside her jagged walls? She wanted to tell her, longed to, but the echoes of her Pa's scorn about her worth kept ringing in her ears. She was trash, pure and simple. She wouldn't burden the kind girl with her feelings. Kate felt a glimmer of a tear in the corner of her eye and angrily wiped it away, but not before Ruth saw it.

"Can I think about this?" she asked her tall jailer, needing time to sort through her feelings. She caught glimpses of the tall girl for several years, always feeling some sort of connection to her. Unfortunately, her father had forbidden her to socialize with several families and their children because of their backgrounds and reputations. Ruth had sensed that the loner had needed a friend and had always wished things had been different.

"Sure, but Pa will be strollin' in here in a coupl'a hours, after he's good n' drunk. And we need the time ta get as far away from here as possible before he does. It's up ta you. He'll take ya as often as he wants 'til he tires of ya, I'm only askin' fer one night," she reminded her gently.

"Only once? Then what? You dump me somewhere and go your merry way?" she accused, her arms folding angrily across her chest. She felt trapped by the whole situation. Kate ran her hands through her tousled hair, trying to find the words needed to reassure her.

" I told ya I'd help ya settle somewhere. I have some money I've saved from gamblin' and such. You can have half of it. I won't leave ya high and dry in some town. Make up yer mind, times a wastin'."

Ruth's sat down on the cot and closed her eyes, praying for some guidance to what she should do. She thought about what Kate had told her. She didn't doubt her in the least when it came to the sheriff. The man had always made her skin crawl, but what about Kate? The dark-haired girl had always made her feel odd longings, ones she could never put words to. They hadn't even really spoken, just exchanged looks when they passed on the street. Could she let the tall girl touch her in that manner? The idea wasn't repulsive, only…different.

She didn't know. The idea was startling, and by the Church, it was wrong…could she do it without losing her immortal soul? Would God approve of agreeing to this type of blackmail? There was no doubt she would end up joining those harlots in the saloon once Carl Randell finished with her, she'd have no choices left in this life. Which was worse? If she left with Kate and she'd have some money to start over with…she could find a new home and no one would ever know what she had done…if Kate kept her word. If not, she could end up in a worse situation than now. Ruth thought about the tall young woman, remembering the gentleness that had shown through for just a moment and decided to take the risk. She stood and told Kate she agreed.

Kate released a worried breath and took down the ring of keys to unlock the door. She stepped forward and wrapped her arms suddenly around Ruth.

"I consider this a deposit," she murmured before lowering her mouth towards the shocked girl. She placed a brief, soft kiss against her lips. The gentleness of the caress of lips surprised the preacher's daughter. She had assumed the tall girl would be aggressive and rough, but the sweetness of the kiss left her helplessly stunned. She didn't even consider fighting it, nor did she want to. She felt mild disappointment when it ended so quickly. She allowed Kate to take her hand and lead her from the jail.

The blonde remained in a shocked state for quite a while, barely noticing how they left town. Kate had quickly collected some of their clothing, money, and supplies. She loaded her horse and mounted it, reaching down her arm to assist the smaller girl up.

"C'mon, get yer ass up here!" Kate commanded. Ruth squirmed her way up and placed her arms around the taller girl's waist, fingers pressed against strong stomach muscles. At the contact, it all began sinking in. She was leaving her town with a virtual stranger who had helped to escape from jail, all in exchange for her sexual favors. She was well and truly damned.


Kate brought the horse to a slow walk, the road becoming more difficult to see in the dark. She was too afraid to stop; fearing her Pa might come hell bent for leather to look for them come morning. They needed to get as far away as possible before he returned to the jail and discovered them missing.

One blessing about the dying town was the fact that he wouldn't be likely find anyone to ride with him to recover an escaped girl who was only guilty of stealing bread. Secondly, drunk, her Pa would have a hard time riding a horse, much less following a trail at night.

The worried girl looked up at the sky. The moon would rise soon, allowing her to see better. She planned on leaving the road, wanting to cross an area filled with creeks, rock beds, and hard ground. Kate knew the odds of him being able to track them after sunrise through that would be slim to nothing.

Satisfied her plan would work, she allowed herself to enjoy the closeness of the girl behind her. Ruth was leaning against her, her breathing slow and steady. Kate's mouth quirked with humor once she realized the smaller girl was asleep. The good mood stayed with the tough youth until Ruth's hands began slowly sliding down in her sleep. One palm settled between her thighs, loosely cupping her womanhood.

Sweat beaded along Kate's brow at the sensation and she wiped it away with one gloved finger. The heat of Ruth's hand seeped through the rough material of her trousers, causing another type of moisture to gather. Feeling awkward about it, Kate attempted to remove the wayward hand, only to have it press closer to her center. The tall youth gasped, feeling an answering, yearning throb begin. She moved Ruth's hand, it once more settled against her. It was going to be a very long night.


Ruth woke with a start when a palm swatted against her thigh.

"Wake up! We're stopping fer a few hours," Kate announced. The petite blonde slid to the ground only with Kate's helping grip, her legs almost buckling as she struggled to her feet. She watched the taller girl dismount gracefully, her powerful body making it seem so easy.

"Where are we?" she asked, looking over the sparse landscape.

"About ten miles away from Silver Creek. We aren't stoppin' long, just long enough fer me ta git a quick nap and a bite to eat. We don't dare stop fer long, not with Pa likely on our trail soon. Doesn't hurt the horse none either. He ain't use ta carryin' this much."

Kate grabbed a sleeping roll from the back of the saddle and spread it out over a clump of grass.

"C'mere an' lay down." Ruth looked frightened, "Don't go lookin' nervous as a filly at me. I just want ta make sure ya don't go running off on me whilst I'm sleepin'," Kate assured her while patting the blanket next to her.

Ruth gathered her skirt and gingerly sat down onto the material. The taller girl rolled to her side and guided Ruth into lying down in front of her, spoon fashion. A long thigh nestled between her own and a large hand settled onto her breast. Ruth stiffened in sudden fear.

"Shhhh, I ain't hurtin' ya none. I'm just getting' comfortable," Kate teased and 'accidentally' ran her thumb over the breast as she buried her nose into Ruth's soft blonde hair.

Suddenly, the fear was replaced with anger. The young girl resisted the urge to slap the mocking tone right out of the female behind her, knowing full well that Kate was enjoying herself at her expense. A fury began building inside. Ruth gritted her teeth and forced herself to relax. Within moments, she heard Kate's soft breathing as she fell asleep.

Anger and resentment were things she could deal with and understand. Kate might be female but she was just as bad as the men folk at pawing women. More than one adolescent and a few grown men had tried to clumsily flirt or press against her. More than one had grabbed a bold handful, only to receive a slap for their trouble.

She resented their behavior and had never understood why women wanted to marry in the first place. Her father asked once why she didn't accept any young man's courting and she had shrugged indifferently, saying when the right one came along, she would. He had been satisfied with her answer, more than happy to keep his daughter at home. 'I hope Papa isn't looking down at me now,' she thought, 'He would be so disappointed. But what choice did I have? Kate and Carl Randell took them away from me," Ruth thought with resentment, thinking about the young woman behind her.

Ruth resisted squirming away from the heat pressed against her womanhood. She didn't want to wake Kate, but the sensation of the firm leg against her was unsettling. Against her will, her hips moved, only to have the thigh press more intimately against her while the hand on her breast moved in tandem. An ache formed within her breast and she felt her nipple pucker against the contact. Ruth felt the first stirrings of desire but was unfamiliar with it. Ashamed, she lifted her eyes heavenward. 'God, why me?' she whispered.


Kate woke with the sunrise, feeling warm and relaxed. Blue eyes opened slowly, only partially aware of the sight in front of them. She watched the rise and fall of full breasts, the morning sun highlighting the mounds as they steadily peeked up as she breathed. Ruth's dress kept them hidden on the most part, but in sleep, a hint of cleavage could be seen.

The taller girl realized she was resting on the blonde's shoulder, an arm and leg sprawled over her. It felt nice--too nice. She mentally cursed herself and moved away from the dozing girl while calling herself every sort of fool.

'Don't get used to her Kate, you'll be parting soon, Leaving her behind will be hard enough as it is! Shit girl, you think someone as God-fearing as Ruth would care for you? You're nothing but trash. Look how you twisted her arm into letting you touch her! If you had a decent bone in your body, you would have just given her the money and let her leave, but noooooooo; you had to make her promise to sleep with you. If that ain't proof that you're dirt just like Pa said, nothing is.'

The dark-haired girl opened a can of hash and ate it cold with the tip of her knife. Once the can was empty, she tossed it into a bush. She walked over to the slumbering girl and prodded her with the toe of her boot. Ruth mumbled but didn't wake up. 'How much sleep does a body need?' she thought with exasperation.

"Ruth, Ruth, wake up. It's time to leave!" The sleeping girl didn't respond. Cursing under her breath, the dark-haired girl bent forward to shake her shoulder only to freeze when an impish impulse hit her. Kate bent forward, thrilled by her own boldness. Ruth's lips were parted sweetly and just begged for a kiss. With a pounding heart, Kate claimed her mouth and lower lip. The full lip was soft and succulent, leaving Kate wanting more.

A heartbeat later, Ruth snapped awake. 'Damn her, she isn't much better than the man that spawned her!' She angrily pushed the dark-haired girl away.

"What in hell are you doing? Can't you keep your hands off of me for one moment?" she asked in outrage as she wiped away the kiss with the back of her hand. Kate's humor disappeared. Feeling humiliated, she turned away, not allowing the petite girl to see her hurt. She didn't understand Ruth's anger. It was nothing more than a kiss. Where was the harm? With her back to her, she shrugged indifferently.

"Time to go."


Neither spoke again for most of the day, each pretending the other didn't exist. It was difficult for each of them, considering they rode pressed closely together. When they stopped, each sat apart, eating their canned food and sipping from the canteen. Their eyes never touched. Neither seemed inclined to apologize or speak, and the tension only got worse with each passing hour.

Finally, just before the sun set, Kate stopped for the evening. She knew of a town within a few hours travel time that could be reached in the morning. There, they would part. Tonight would have to be when Ruth fulfilled her part of the bargain. Kate felt her stomach clench nervously. Part of her wanted it so badly she could taste the hunger, like a carnivore that smelt blood. But inside, a tiny piece of her told her not to do this. It was wrong to even make such a pact with Ruth it insisted.

But that tiny voice faded into nothing when she looked towards the girl she had wanted for so long. Kate felt the craving claw at her, demanding satisfaction. Doubt left her mind. She tersely told Ruth to collect firewood while she tended to the horse.

The tall teenager unloaded the horse then unsaddled him. After caring for the horse, she pulled the bedroll from the saddle. Ruth returned with wood and began collecting rocks for the fire pit. Neither spoke while the fire was started and a simple meal was prepared. They ate in silence then rinsed the tin plates in the small creek. Both could feel the tension and it snapped without warning.

"Take off yer clothes," Kate ordered, "It's time ta pay up."

Ruth felt the blood drain from her face. She had pushed away any thought of this, hoping the older girl wouldn't actually collect on the debt. But the moment came and she had given her word.

Silently she began removing her dress, now feeling shameful heat rush to her face. Ruth lowered her eyes, unable to look at Kate. With the releasing of each button, she could almost feel the gaze of the taller girl on her flesh. With release of the last button, she allowed the dress to fall to her feet.

The blonde reached behind her and began loosening the strings of her corset. Her fingers shook and it was difficult to handle them. Suddenly, a warm breeze came from behind and her hands were brushed aside. Kate untied her corset and tossed it to the ground. Ruth froze as large hands settled on her shoulders.

"Turn around," she was ordered. A few heartbeats later, she slowly did as she was told. Kate's hands lowered, lightly cupping her elbows as she moved forward. Her lips sought Ruth's, rough and demanding. The smaller girl tried to pull away but Kate wouldn't let her.

Large hands pulled Ruth tightly against a firm body and the kiss changed. It gentled and the smaller girl stopped fighting. Having never been kissed by anyone else, she felt unsure what to do. She tried returning the kiss, feeling she had made the deal and should at least try to please the taller teen.

Kate groaned and lifted one hand, seeking Ruth's bare breast. Her warm hand cupped it, kneading it with callused fingers. Her thumb began circling the nipple, bringing it to a stiff peak. Ruth felt the first stirrings of arousal, but it ended quickly.

She knew she had agreed to this, had done it with her eyes wide open, but now her heart said not this way. It demanded commitment and love, not this emotionless mating in the middle of no where. Unable to deal with her feelings of shame, she closed her eyes and prayed for it to end quickly.

Kate tore her mouth away from Ruth's sweet lips and lowered it to the rose-tipped breast in her hand. Her palm lifted the breast closer as she darted out her tongue. The pebbled flesh teased at her as she explored with soft nips and licks--until a salty flavor was added. Startled, Kate froze, unsure what was happening, then a warm drop hit her cheek.

The tall youth pulled away and straightened, looking down at Ruth's face. Tears were silently falling down her pale face, pooling down her cheeks. Something cold gripped at Kate's heart at the sight of the girl's obvious pain.

'I told you this was wrong!' her inner voice snarled, 'Look at her!'
Guilt tore at her heart. 'You ain't any better than yer Pa!' the voice tormented, bringing back all the feelings of insecurity and self-loathing. Kate tore her eyes away and picked up a blanket tossing it at the now confused girl in front of her.

"Go to sleep, I changed my mind," she growled. The sheriff's daughter grabbed the spare bedroll and balled up into a fetal position near the fire. In shock, Ruth wrapped the blanket around her shoulders and sat down.


Ruth sat, wide awake, unable to sleep. Her active mind demanded to know what had happened and why, searching for answers. The preacher's daughter came to a few conclusions but until she spoke with Kate, she'd never know if they were correct. And what if they were? What did she do then? And how did she feel about it? She needed to think more on this.

Hours passed and dawn would be coming soon. She could already see the slightest of lightening of the night sky. They would probably leave at sunrise. Deciding she wanted answers, Ruth determinedly walked over to Kate's sleeping form and shook her. The girl rolled over groggily.

"Wha'?" she croaked out.

"Why did you stop?" Ruth asked bluntly.

"Huh? Damn it, I told ya, I changed my mind. Go back ta sleep," she growled.

"No, not until I have answers. I wasn't fighting you and we made a deal, so, why did you stop? You had every right to take me."

Kate didn't answer. She tossed off her blanket and stumbled to the dying fire, She stirred the embers and added more wood. Ruth watched silently as she prepared a pot of coffee. Kate sat down and picked up a stick, twirling it in her fingers for several minutes. Then with a deep sigh, she looked up at the waiting girl.

"Maybe I didn't want ta 'take' ya," she said softly. When Ruth didn't respond, she continued. "Ya, know, I grew up, watching my Pa 'take' more than one woman. He didn't care one wit about them. He used them as he saw fit. One night, when I was twelve, he came home drunk. He told me I wasn't any better than the whore he married and that I was just like my Ma. He…he…" Kate stopped, the tears blocking her throat.

Ruth rushed forward and pulled the blue-eyed girl into her arms. Kate tried to hold back the tears but with the single act of kindness, she lost her control. Long held back pain tore out of her, wracking her body with cleansing, powerful sobs. She held onto the smaller girl in desperation, needing something to cling to. Time lost all meaning, her pain rushing outwards from unhealed wounds. She wasn't aware of anything except for Ruth's arms tight around her and the anguish inside. Finally, the tears slowed and she could hear soothing noises coming from the girl holding her close. A hand stroked her hair and warm lips pressed against her brow. The tears ended and Kate was left feeling empty and exhausted. Ruth pulled even her closer and whispered to her.

"He took you, didn't he?" she asked. Kate could only nod against what she realized was a bared breast.

"And suddenly, you thought you were just like your father, so you stopped." It was a statement, not a question but Kate nodded again. She couldn't see Ruth's soft smile.

"Seems to me you proved him wrong. If you were just like him, you wouldn't have cared. You would have made me hold up my end of the bargain anyway."

"But I wanted to Ruth," she said, using the girl's name for the first time, "I've wanted ya for what seems like forever. I used ta watch ya through the windows, thinking you were the prettiest thing I've ever seen. And when ya played with the little kids, I was jealous as hell. You'd let them sit on yer lap when ya told them stories. I wanted to…" she trailed off, feeling foolish. She tried to pull away but Ruth's arms remained firm.

"You wanted to sit on my lap too?" Ruth watched Kate's blush deepen. She placed her hand on the strong jaw, wanting Kate to look at her. Blue eyes darted upwards shyly and then looked away.

"Kate, look at me," she ordered gently. The older girl managed to look at her just as Ruth sought out her mouth with her own. The kiss was soft and unhurried. Unsure why it was happening, Kate gratefully allowed the blonde full control. She mirrored the kiss, wanting nothing more to have it last forever. Having been denied tenderness all her young life, Kate savored each moment, pressing the experience into the memory book of her mind.

They gently explored, neither sure of what they were doing but more than willing to learn. When Ruth took her lower lip and nibbled, Kate was sure she had died and gone to Heaven. A groan tumbled out and Ruth stopped.

"Did I hurt you?" she asked quickly, worried.

"No! God, no! Please don't stop!" Kate pleaded, looking much like a child begging for a sugar tit. Ruth chuckled and ran a fingertip along the brunette's jaw, her eyes indulgent. She returned to the kiss, back to the full lip that was so soft. As it continued, her fingers played with silky dark hair and Ruth felt a palm tenderly seek out her breast. The warm fingers never strayed, merely cupping and holding. Ruth found she didn't mind. As the sun rose, they pulled apart, ending the kiss.

"I think we have to get going soon. Let's make something to eat, I'm starved," Ruth said. Kate nodded and reluctantly allowed Kate to move away.


They slowly rode into Pretty Springs. It was a small town but the name suited it. The girls had talked on the road, deciding they didn't dare stay too long in a town so close to home. The possibility of Carl Randell finding them made it too risky. Leaving the county and the sheriff's district was their only choice. They had studied the map and calculated it would take four days to reach the closest town with a railroad station.

They would head for Wyoming. The former territory had just become a state and had given women the right to vote. Many protested, claiming the territory had only planned it in order to have enough voters to become a state. The girls didn't care. With a major railroad going through the capital, there would be more opportunities for finding work. When Ruth had asked how much money they had, she discovered that the bad girl of Silver Creek had put aside almost enough to open a business. With a little luck, they might find a banker to loan them more.

As they spoke, neither gave voice to the fact that they took it for granted that they would remain together. It was a silent understanding. Where things would go from there was a mystery to both since neither would make any demands of the other.

For Ruth, her feelings for Kate changed from resentment to fondness. Understanding had given her new insights to why Kate acted the way she did. Under all her roughness was hidden a wealth of softness. Maybe it would emerge someday. As for Kate, old insecurities and self-loathing kept the brunette from asking for more. She would take each day as it happened, feeling she had no right to ask Ruth to stay.

Kate stopped the horse in front of a small hotel. She tied the horse close to the water trough before removing the saddlebags. Ruth led the way inside, aware of the fact of several stares from the town folk. It wasn't a common occurrence to see women traveling alone--much less one dressed as a man. Ruth mentally vowed to bring up the subject of Kate wearing a dress. It would bring a lot less attention to them. They paid for the use of the bathing room and told the clerk they would be in the restaurant eating. It gave the boy in charge of filling the tub enough time to heat and carry the water.

They ordered a light meal of smoked ham and vegetables. With several people openly staring at them, they didn't even try to converse. They merely ate in silence until they were finished. When they returned to the desk, the wait was short until the bathing room was prepared. They followed the boy to the room and tipped him a nickel for his trouble. He tipped his cap with a grin and left the room. Kate pulled down the wooden bar to lock the room.

Both suddenly felt awkward. They had few choices. It was either share the bath or take quick turns before the water turned cold. Both felt shy for their own reasons. Unused to admitting it, Kate decided to make a joke of it.

"Damn, I fergot what a hot bath was like. I'm more'n likely to burn my behind! Why don't you cook your hiney first Ruth?" she said with a teasing grin. The blonde grinned back.

"Nah, if you've forgotten what a hot bath is, you need it a lot more than I do. Strip! If you're good, I might even offer to scrub your back."

The offer took the smile from Kate's face and it was replaced with a sad longing. She really wanted to share the bath with Ruth, but didn't say so, fearing the smaller girl would think she was trying something.

"What?" Ruth asked, "I see something in your eyes," she informed her. Kate suddenly felt naked. How much did Ruth see? Feeling vulnerable, she turned her back and dropped the saddlebags, taking her time in removing a set of clean clothing. She muttered a 'nuthin' and tried to ignore the eyes that burned into her back.

"Kate, it's no use ignoring me," she warned. When the brunette refused to answer, she walked around the tub and pulled the clothes from Kate's hands.

"Might as well tell me Kate. Did I make you uncomfortable? If you want, I'll leave the room-"

"No, that wasn't it," she murmured.

"What then? C'mon, tell me, please?"

"I…I, well, damnit! I can't. You'd think I was upta somethin' dirty if I asked," she whined.

"What?" Ruth asked, a giggle threatening to break out because of Kate's sheepish expression.

"Well, I…I wanted ya ta take the bath with me," she confessed. "I gotta admit I'd like to see ya naked as a jaybird, but if you don' wanna, I'd under-" her babbling was stopped by fingers held to her lips. Ruth only smiled and began removing her clothes as Kate stood there in shock. Once the brunette realized her wish was actually coming true, she quickly began removing her own clothing. Both girls were curious of the other. Neither turned their eyes away as they undressed.

For Ruth, it was her first opportunity to see the tall brunette without her mannish garb. The baggy shirt and pants only hinted at what was underneath. With the removal of the shirt, Ruth could see broad and muscled shoulders, developed from helping the local merchant in his shop. Ruth didn't know what to make of the muscular build. Women where supposed to be softly curved, but the sight wasn't unpleasant. Then when the trousers and the underdrawers dropped, she was blessed with the view of long, muscular legs. Once, Ruth had seen a printed drawing of a statue of a Greek athlete. The image had stayed in her mind, even after all these years-and now, the image became reality in female form.

"Sweet heaven Kate, you're beautiful!" she exclaimed, making the taller girl turn bright red. The flush spread clear to her breasts.

"No I'm not. Yer the pretty one, not me," she muttered.

"Beauty is in the eye of the beholder," Ruth quoted. She stepped closer, stopping inches away. She raised her hand and softly stroked the embarrassed Kate from the shoulder to upper thigh. "I think you're beautiful," she said once more with awe.

Ruth watched as her tall companion fought with her own notions of herself. Kate obviously thought little of her looks, believing to be ugly and unlovable. Her self image seen through a warped mirror. The thought made her look towards the standing oval mirror next to the wall.

"Kate, I want you to do something for me," she asked gently while taking her hands, "Stand here and look into the mirror." The taller girl did as she was asked, feeling self-conscious. Ruth stood at her side, slightly behind her.

"I want you to see what I see Kate." The blonde began with her hair, running her hand along the long silky strands. "You're hair is soft, and dark as mahogany in moonlight." Kate felt the blush returning to her cheeks, embarrassed by the smaller girl's flowery compliment. She tried to look away from the mirror but Ruth gently and firmly made her look back.

"Your face, it's so strong, almost like the Indians. I bet you'll only be more striking as you get older. And I see your eyes, blue like snowy cornflowers. Then there's your shoulders, broad and strong, yet so graceful. Hands, long, powerful and yet gentle when needed." Ruth paused, seeing that her companion was becoming uneasy, decided not to linger too much.

"I like your legs. Long and sleek. Kate, you're a beautiful person on the outside, but you have to let the person inside out too. I see much more hiding behind those eyes of yours. You aren't your father, mother, or anyone else. You are you, for better or worse. Don't you think you owe yourself a chance to be more than what they saw?" she asked tenderly.

Kate trembled hard as something bitter and cold inside of her crumble and fall away when those softly spoken words touched her. For once in her life, Kate felt as though she had the right to live and breathe-that someone actually saw something of value in her. Tears of gratitude pooled in her eyes and she looked away from the mirror and turned to Ruth.

The tall brunette gathered her newfound friend into her arms and pulled her close. "Thank you," she whispered as she placed a soft kiss on her cheek.

"You're welcomed," Ruth said, brushing aside a dark strand of hair from Kate's eyes, "Now, let's get clean before the water turns cold." The taller youth smiled and nodded.

They both got into the lukewarm water, settling as best they could in the enamel tub. Limbs and knees got in the way and they finally compromised on Kate overlapping her longer legs over Ruth's. They gathered some soap and began a quick lathering, hoping the water didn't cool too fast. They took turns pouring buckets of clean water over the other, rinsing the soap from their hair.

Ruth rose from the tub and gathered a large towel to dry with when, unexpectedly, a bathing sponge smacked her in the stomach. She turned to look at her dark-haired companion, who wore mischievous grin.

"Ya said you'd wash my back if'n I was good," she reminded her.

"Yes, I did, didn't I?" she said with a smile, walking to the side of the tub.


Ruth walked thoughtfully a step behind Kate as they slowly walked towards the Mercantile. Something was different about her now, she believed, yet not able to put her finger on it.

The petite blonde studied the profile of her taller companion. Kate seemed lost in thought. She didn't speak but that didn't seem unusual; Kate wasn't prone to idle chatter. The brunette merely walked along, the horse's reins held loosely in her hand.

Kate's features held no expressions, Ruth mused. No, that's not the correct word. Peaceful…yes, that fit better. With that settled, the differences fell more easily into place.

In the past, the sheriff's daughter had walked with her eyes and shoulders subdued never making eyes contact with people. Now she seemed to walk with a relaxed gate, her posture confidant, as she would occasionally nod at others as they walked by. One ranch hand neared their path. He tipped his dusty hat at them, murmuring a quiet 'Ladies', smiling as he did so.

Kate nearly stumbled to his feet. He helped her steady herself.

"Whoa, ma'am, are you all right?"

"Yes, fine…thank you," Kate blushed, trying to remember long forgotten manners. He gave her a smile then moved on. Ruth watched, a bit amused.

"He liked you," Ruth commented.

"Hmmf. The man is blind, besides, he ain't my type," she protested. "I hanker more fer lil' green-eyed fillies," she whispered naughtily, making Ruth blush to her roots.

"Kate! Hush, what if someone had heard you?" she whispered. Kate's shoulders slumped, her newfound confidence gone. Ruth immediately regretted her words. Until Kate's self esteem grew, she had to be more careful with her comments.

"Kate, Kate," she prodded. When the blue-eyed girl looked up, Ruth sent her warm smile and took her hand.

"Smile for me gorgeous, or I'll pout," she teased. Kate giggled and relaxed, feeling better.

"That's more like it. I love…that smile," she trailed off. Ruth swallowed hard, realizing what words had wanted to spill out.


They were on the road again. Ruth was once more napping on Kate, her cheek pressed against her shoulder, arms around her waist. The older of the two didn't mind. Kate found the contact pleasant now that she resigned herself to the fact that they weren't going to be lovers. She had to admit to some disappointment over it-after all, she had been crazy about the blonde for years. The brunette sighed lightly, pushing away the feelings and gazed at the area around them.

Nothing, no sign of her Pa. Either he had lost their trail and/or given up, saying to hell with them. It didn't matter much to her. The bastard didn't get his hands on Ruth and that's all that counted-that she was safe from him. The brunette let the victory over her father wash through her. It felt good…very good, she realized. For once in her life, she could actually say she felt good inside instead of like a piece of shit. Kate felt empowered and could actually look towards the future with something other than dread. Now only one small worry remained.


'Would she stay with me or move on? And what do I do if she leaves me?' A heavy weight settled in her stomach. She didn't want to think of it but she had to be realistic. 'Ruth was only here because I forced her to leave with me. Once I give her the money, there's nothing to stop her from walking out of my life. I won't force her to stay or cheat her.'

"What's wrong?" came Ruth's concerned voice, startling Kate from her musings.

"Nothin'. Just lookin' around. No sign of Pa."

"Oh, okay. I just thought something was bothering you. You stiffened up," she explained. Kate shrugged.

Ruth studied the taller young woman from behind, watching the tense posture. She was worried about something, she could feel it, but should she say anything? 'Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained,' she decided.

"Kate, it's more than that, isn't it? Did I say something to hurt you?"

"No, nothing you did."

"Would you like to talk about it?" she offered softly. She raised one hand and placed it on one of Kate's strong forearms. The sheriff's daughter shrugged lightly, what could she say? Then she thought about it. She took a steadying breath, trying to word things carefully.

"Ruth, we've been avoidin' talkin'. Me more 'n you prob'ly. What's gonna happen when we get to Wyoming?"

"Happen? What do you mean?"

"Well," Kate swallowed, not sure exactly how to be delicate about asking, "I was wondering…if ya was gonna leave and head off on yer own."

"Without you?" Ruth became worried. What was going through Kate's mind?

"Yeah. I was just wonderin' was all." The brunette tried to prepare herself, expecting the worst.

"Did you want to go separate ways Kate?" it came out strained.

Kate stopped the horse and twisted in the saddle.

"No! What gave ya such a silly idea?" she asked, genuinely surprised. Now unsure what to think, she blithered on, "I just thought maybe…maybe ya didn't want me around once we got there. I didn't want ya to feel obliged to stay or nothin'. I-"

"Kate, shut up!" Ruth growled. Kate lowered her eyes and faced forward, now totally confused. She felt Ruth scramble down off of the horse and positioned herself into Kate's view.

Kate looked down at her companion. She was pissed. 'What the hell did I do?'

"Now I want you to listen to me and listen carefully Kate Randell, I have no intention of going anywhere unless you tell me to. In spite of the fact you're the most mule-headed, closed-mouth idiot I've come across, I happen to LIKE you. Only Heaven knows why, because half the time I want to kick your behind," she said irritably. "Further more, I…" Ruth watched a wide grin spread across the older girl's face.

"What the hell are you smiling about?"

Kate didn't answer. She got down from the horse and approached her smaller friend, leaned forward, and placed a soft kiss on Ruth's mouth. The kiss ended but she didn't pull away, instead, she stared into light green eyes and waited. Two things could happen, she thought. One, Kate would slap her silly, or…

Ruth leaned up and resumed the kiss, placing her arms around the taller young woman. Kate lifted her hands and wrapped them around Ruth's waist, sighing against the blonde's lips as they melted together. They explored and delved, never wanting it to end. Hands roamed and caressed softly, their breathing quickly escalating. It wasn't until the horse neighed and bumped into them with his head that they pulled apart.

Kate swore and tried to get a hold of herself. They were in the middle of a large spread of land without so much as a tree in sight. Anyone nearby could easily spot them…but the kiss had been well worth the risk. Kate kissed the tip of Ruth's nose and suggested they keep riding until they found a decent campsite. The blonde nodded, unable to speak and waited for Kate to remount the horse, but when she didn't move, it confused her.

"You first. I want ta sit behind this time," the brunette smiled. Ruth gave in, and with Kate's help, got into the saddle. She watched her companion mount easily behind her and settle close. Strong arms surrounded her and long thighs rested behind her own. Ruth felt a shiver along her spine from the contact, glad the girl behind her was holding the reins and not her. As distracted as she was right now, they would end up in the middle of a lake somewhere.

Kate clicked at the horse and they continued on. She pressed one palm against the smaller girl's stomach and held it there. She felt Ruth tremble at her touch. The brunette took a deep breath, wanting to continue their talk.

"Ruth, I …damnit! Every time I try talkin' to ya, I get all fumble-mouthed."

"Then spit it out and don't worry about how it comes out Kate," she suggested, "Sooner or later you'll discover I won't break," she teased.

"Maybe, but I'd rather not see ya run either," Kate sighed and mumbled 'spit it out' under her breath before trying again.

"Ruth, are ya willin' ta sleep with me?" she said bluntly.

The blonde broke out in a peal of laughter, nearly falling off the horse. Kate tightened her hold on her so she wouldn't fall, but wasn't sure she ought to, especially since she was the one being laughed at. She grumbled and waited impatiently until Ruth managed to control her laughter and settle down.

"Lord, that felt good. I haven't laughed like that in a long time," she said, her giggles still just under the surface.

"Glad I could oblige ya," Kate bit out.

"Oh Kate, I wasn't laughing at you, not really. It just struck me is funny is all. I could imagine you asking that in a room full of prim and proper women and some of them having a case of the vapors."

"Not likely ta see me in a room full of 'em anyways," Kate grumbled.

"Oh, I don't know about that. I bet you'd clean up really well, as pretty as you are. You just need some of those rough edges of yours filed off is all. Wait, we lost the point of this whole conversation. Yes," she said just as bluntly. The horse came to a stop when Kate pulled the reins and all went silent. Ruth could hear her heart pounding in her ears as she waited for Kate to speak.


"Yes," she smiled although Kate couldn't see it.

"Damnit Ruth! Why in Sam's Hill did ya go and tell me that for?" she whined, "There ain't a bed in sight and ya outta have flowers and soft sheets, and-"

"Shhh!" Ruth hushed her. She could hear the taller girl take a deep breath, prepared to argue further. "Shhh! I said!" The blonde waited until she was sure Kate lost all the fight in her before she continued.

"One: I don't care if we have all the fancy, romantic trimmings. Two: You asked me the question, so it's your own damned fault! Three: I said I'd be willing, but that doesn't mean you're going to have your wicked way with me at the drop of a hat," she said primly.

Kate chuckled, "Wicked way? Been readin' too many dime store novels Ruth?"

"Cad! Darn, wait, that's a man, what do you call a female cad?" she mused to herself.

"A bitch?" Kate suggested naughtily, laughing when Ruth acted shocked. The brunette snuggled around her small companion and nuzzled her nose into silky blonde hair with a pleasurable sigh.

"This feels so nice," she murmured into Ruth's ear. Her companion closed her eyes, savoring the contact with a lazy 'mm hmm'. A few quiet moments later, she fell asleep. Kate smiled and gently prodded the horse to move with her feet.


Ruth woke up several hours to Kate gently rubbing her arms and asking her to wake up. She blinked her eyes against the sunlight and stretched in the saddle, trying to get her bearings.

They were among a small stand of pines near a mountain run-off stream. By the position of the sun, they still had several hours of daylight left. Still half asleep, she was only partly aware of Kate slipping off from the horse and helping her down. The taller woman led her to a mossy stone and told her to sit. Ruth nodded and tried to wake up. The blonde could hear her companion's amused chuckle but decided she was too lethargic to pout.

She settled for watching Kate take a downed branch and used it to sweep a large area free of dried pine needles, collect stones for the fire pit, then collect nearby wood for the fire. Within minutes, a small blaze was going. Kate removed the traveling cookware from the saddlebags, put them next to the fire, and unsaddled the horse.

By that time, Ruth had woken up and got to her feet, offering to fix their meal. Kate easily agreed, hating to cook. Kate offered to collect the firewood for the night as well and left the camp. She brought back several armloads and disappeared again.

Ruth stirred the soup and checked how the cornmeal was doing. It was almost done. She looked around but Kate was nowhere to be seen. She shouted her name and retrieved the plates and spoons from the saddlebag. She turned around and yelped, surprised by Kate who was standing right there.

"Sorry, I didn't mean ta scare ya," Kate murmured, "I just wanted ta give ya these," she said shyly, bringing a handful of wildflowers from their hiding place behind her back. The brunette watched nervously as Ruth slowly took the flowers from her hand, a gentle smile spreading across her face.

"They're lovely Kate, thank you," Ruth leaned forward and embraced the taller girl with one arm, placing her cheek against a broad shoulder. Kate sighed in relief that her small gift was appreciated and smiled, pulling Ruth closer.

"I thought at least ya should have flowers," she explained.

"Oh?" Ruth asked, pulling away from Kate, "Are you assuming I'm going to sleep with you tonight?" she asked, her arms crossing.

"I-.I..uh…well…" Kate began sweating, trying to think of some way she could possibly apologize when she looked into Ruth's sparkling, impish eyes. Realizing she had been had, she grinned and raised an accusing finger.

"Why ya little scamp! I outta dump ya in the pond fer that!" she said good-naturedly.

"Why? The one that seems to need a cooling down is you Kate, not me. We're not in any hurry," she asked. She stepped closer to Kate and placed her hand on her tanned cheek, "Are we?"

Kate's mood turned serious, "Are we movin' too fast Ruth? I know how I feel about ya, I've wanted ya for a long time, but we can wait. Yer right though, we aren't in any hurry," the brunette said softly. Kate watched the petite girl's face, trying to gauge her feelings. Ruth still seemed uneasy, her eyes troubled. Kate pulled her closer and tucked the blonde head under her chin.

"What's wrong Ruth?" The girl in her arms could only shrug, not sure she could ask and handle the answer.

"C'mon, talk ta me. I can't read yer mind and I'm stumblin' 'round blind here. Say somethin'" she pleaded gently. Kate waited, not wanting to push further, but at least Ruth seemed to be thinking about it. Her small companion had placed her hand on the rough material of her shirt and was lightly touching in small movements with her thumb.

"Kate," she asked in a small voice, "Is this just a romp in the hay for you or something more?"

"More? Whatcha mean by that?" The older girl was uncertain of what Ruth wanted.

"Never mind, forget I said anything," Ruth said sadly as she pulled away, "Lets eat supper before it burns."

Kate felt sick inside. Ruth was hurting about something and here she stood, without a clue as to why. 'More? What DID she mean by it? Didn't I already tell her that I wanted to stay with her? What more could there possibly…"

Sudden insight slammed into her. "Kate Randell, you are the stupidest bitch in these United States! Get over there and speak yer mind before ya lose the best thing that's ever happened to you!"

Kate marched over to the kneeling blonde who was filling the plates without much enthusiasm. The taller girl knelt down to one knee and gently took the plate from Ruth's hand and placed it on the ground. Confused, Ruth looked up at her, her eyes questioning. Kate took one hand and placed it on her pale, soft cheek and smiled.

"I love ya Ruth Seaton." She said simply.

Ruth looked at her in shock. 'Did Kate really say that to me or am I dreaming?'

"Well, damnit Ruth, say somethin' and stop lookin' like a fish outta water! Ruth?…Please, I can't handle it when ya cry, damnit, don't go teary eyed on me…" Ruth burst into tears, "Shit," the brunette said under her breath and gathered the crying girl in her arms.

"You were suppose ta say ya love me back and have yer 'wicked way' with me, not cry!" Kate teased quietly, making Ruth laugh in the middle of her tears. The blonde managed to stop crying and sniffed, and accepted the men's handkerchief from the girl holding her. She wiped her eyes and looked up.

"Kate," she murmured, "but I'm not having my 'wicked way' with you until after we eat because I'm hungry."

"Yer always hungry," Kate teased indulgently, "Besides, we have all the time in the world."

They ate in silence, smiling from time to time, but both growing more nervous as the minutes passed. Once the meal was finished and the utensils cleaned in the brook, they stood there, uncertain what to do. They shared uncomfortable silence, their eyes looking away then back again.

"Shit, ain't we a pair?" Kate managed to say, "Now what do we do?"

"Kate, I thought you've done this before!"

"Me? Where in Sam's Hill did ya git that idea?" Kate asked in surprise.

"Well, I assumed…oh heck!" Ruth said, making Kate chuckle. The taller girl walked up to her and hugged her.

"I think we're tryin' too hard. Neither of us has a clue, so…I suggest we just take this slow. " Kate kissed the blonde's brow and ran her palm along her back soothingly. "I know, how about a dip in that pond? It's just around the bend. We've already seen each other naked before, and I do like the way ya scrub my back." Kate added naughtily, making Ruth laugh.

They gathered up some soap and towels from the saddlebags and walked to the water. They dropped the supplies on a nearby rock and began removing their shoes in silence. Ruth stood and reached behind her to undo the buttons.

"May I?" her tall companion asked. Ruth dropped her hands and turned around, allowing Kate access to them.

Ruth found the sensation of Kate's hands at her back pleasant and she let her eyes drift shut, concentrating on the feeling. Once the last button was released, she felt warm hands part the material, allowing the dress to fall from her shoulders and to her feet.

The blonde felt her cheeks flush. It might have been a little easier if it had been night, when dim lighting could have shadowed their actions, but it was still hours before sundown. The evening's Summer sun shined down on them, casting their shadows on the water. Ruth watched their reflections in the pool as Kate helped untie her corset and pulled it away as well. Now bare to the waist, she felt shy and tried to cover her breasts with her arms.

"No, don't," Kate whispered, "Yer beautiful Ruth, one of God's better works."

The preacher's daughter let her arms drop and turned around. She still felt shy but trusted Kate. She lifted her hands and sought out the buttons on the brunette's shirt. Now it was time for Kate to feel a bit flustered as she watched her shirt being pulled from her denims and unfastened.

Ruth's hands shook a little but she managed to undo the small bone buttons. The shirt parted a little and she was rewarded with a view of Kate's cleavage.

"You look sexy this way." Ruth said, smiling. The older girl blushed and looked at the ground bashfully, only to look up again when the blonde pushed the shirt off her shoulders and down her arms. It fell into a heap on the bank.

The cooler air hit her and Kate felt her nipples beginning to tighten in response. Ruth moved closer and pressed herself against the taller youth.

"Mmmmm, this feels nice," she smiled. Kate agreed and brought her arms ups to hold her tighter, letting her hands caress Ruth's bare back. The smaller girl sighed her pleasure.

"I'm gonna melt right here. Just mop me up with the towel," Ruth teased. Kate chuckled and nuzzled into blonde hair.

"Yeah, this is nice, but we ain't gonna git our bath this way. C'mon," she prodded, letting Ruth leave her arms. They finished undressing themselves and stepped into the sun-warmed pool.

The water was only came to mid-thigh on Ruth. She dunked into the water to get wet and began lathering up with the bar of soap. Kate stood, transfixed and watched. Ruth watched the expressions on the other young woman's face and felt a rush of boldness take over inside.

"Want to do this for me?" she asked with a grin, looking forward to Kate touching her.

The brunette stepped closer without a word, more than eager to lend a couple of willing hands. She took the soap from Ruth and lathered her hands and tossed the soap to the bank. She faced the blonde and suddenly felt unsure exactly where to put her hands first. Her hesitation prompted Ruth the act and she took Kate by the wrists. She brought the large hands to her shoulders.

Grateful for the clue, she began a gentle washing first along feminine shoulders and arms, getting nearer to two tempting mounds with each pass. Kate's eyes couldn't pull away from them, she wanted to touch them so badly. Her heart pounded in her ears and her breathing felt labored. She got closer and passed over the soft upper swells. Ruth didn't pull away and Kate took it as permission to continue.

She cupped the firm breasts with soapy hands and gently bathed them. The soft rose peaks began puckering from her touch and Kate couldn't help but run the pads of her thumbs across them. Ruth sucked in her breath and grabbed at Kate's forearms.

"Do you want me to stop?" Kate asked with concern.

"No! It's okay. I j-just didn't realize how it would feel," she panted.

"Do you like this?" the brunette asked, moving her thumbs once again. Ruth arched into the large hands, only nodding. Kate continued with her gentle touches, finding pleasure in just watching Ruth's reactions. She lingered for a few moments more then reluctantly left the breasts in order to roam down towards the trim stomach.

Ruth trembled a bit then giggled. Kate chuckled at the ticklish response and moved away from the ribs, sliding her hands around the blonde's waist. Her hands washed the pale skin briefly before naughtily finding a rounded bottom. She cupped each moon in her palms and pulled Ruth closer so she could nuzzle into her neck.

"Lord, bathin's never been this much fun before," she groaned, making the smaller girl laugh.

"Cleanliness is next to Godliness," Ruth quoted, "and I don't think either of us will ever have a dirty back again." Ruth pulled away from her taller companion, saying it was her turn. She dunked into the water to rinse off then retrieved the soap, lathering her hands as she stepped closer. Ruth raised the bar and placed it over Kate's firm belly and began soaping her. After several swirls, the bar slipped from her fingers and into the water, but neither cared to rescue it, their minds on other things.

Ruth's hands wandered everywhere at once, never stopping until Kate was covered in soapy bubbles. She leaned forward, keeping her hands on Kate's ribs, and stretched upwards for a kiss. Kate obliged and met her halfway.

The kiss was soft and playful. They lingered and nipped softly, enjoying the sweet caresses as Ruth's hands slowly explored with her palms. She grew bolder with each moment, her hands moving with their own agenda, only to blush when one hand found soap-slicked curls. Kate gasped and groaned. Ruth froze but didn't remove her fingers, keeping them pressed against the tall girl's womanhood.

"Ruth? Ya don' hafta if ya don' want to," she whispered, "Not if it makes ya skittish."

"No, it's just, well, other than myself, I've…you know?"

Kate nodded. "I know. Ruth, have ya ever…touched yerself there, you know, fer pleasure?" Both girls blushed at the question. That was a subject rarely spoken about--even during girl chats. It was something only whispered about. Ruth could only nod, embarrassed to confess to it.

"So have I," Kate admitted and took a chance. "I used ta lay on my bed and think about ya, dreaming about kissing ya. The ache would git so bad…so I thought about you and…" she trailed off, letting Ruth finish it in her own mind.

"You did? What did you think about when you did?" Ruth was genuinely curious, some of her embarrassment gone. Kate's willingness to open up had helped.

Kate was still blushing but she began talking, letting the memories come out.

"Mostly about holdin' ya close, kissing ya…I thought about that a lot," she grinned, getting a shy grin back, "Touching ya everywhere, thinkin' about how soft 'n warm ya would be. Hearin' ya say ya loved me," she ended sadly.

"Oh Kate, I didn't tell you!" Ruth moaned, "I'm sorry-I was just so surprised when you told me how you felt that I didn't say it back!" she explained.

"Ya love me?" Kate asked hopefully.

"Yes," Ruth smiled softly, "I love you too."

"Even though I…when I-I-" she stuttered.

"Kate, that's not important anymore. You didn't go through with it, and that's all that matters," she studied Kate's thoughtful blue eyes and smiled. "Now, rinse off, I hear a bedroll calling our names," she teasingly ordered.

They left the water and helped one another dry off playfully, sneaking in a kiss or two. Clothes were collected in piles and carried in their arms before strolling back to camp. Kate fussed several times, worried they were rushing things.

When they reached the fire, Kate looked around awkwardly, still holding her clothes in her arms like a shield. "Ruth, are you sure-"

"Ask me again and you'll sleep with the horse," the blonde threatened. "Stop worrying about me. You aren't pressuring me into anything. Remember, I love you. I want this too. Besides, you're as new to this as I am. I could be asking you the same question. Do you want to wait?" Ruth asked seriously.

"No, but-" Stubborn green eyes glared at her.

When Ruth was convinced Kate was properly contrite, she walked to the bedroll and smoothed it out. She sat down on the rough blanket and held out her hand invitingly. Kate's clothing hit the ground with a thud.

'It's okay Katie girl, just move yer feet and get over there. Once you touch her, everything will be all right!' Kate took a deep breath and took a step towards her, and promptly stumbled over her clothes. She grinned sheepishly and kept going.

"Glad to see I'm not the only one nervous," Ruth said.

"Well, I'm just prayin' I don't make a fool of myself," Kate admitted.

"Just lie down here and keep me warm, we'll figure out the rest." Kate did as she was told, settling next to the waiting Ruth, who decided to make the first move.

The blonde rolled over and covered Kate's long body with her own, settling one thigh between strong legs. Ruth leaned forward, the need to kiss Kate strong, and stopped.

"What's wrong? Kate? You look terrified," she told the now pale girl beneath her.

"I'm sorry Ruth, I…it's not you…" The smaller girl moved off of Kate and tried to move away.

"Please, don't! It wasn't yer fault…please, come here," Kate pleaded. She gathered Ruth in her arms and tried to explain, stoking the blonde's back.

"Remember when I told ya about my Pa?" the brunette asked. Ruth nodded against her shoulder. She could hear Kate's heart pounding fast and hard. "Well, for a few seconds there, I was scared, but it wasn't yer fault, honest. I just felt trapped and couldn't breathe. I'm okay now, really.

"You're sure? Maybe we should stop. We can-"

No, we already went over this before. Just…just don't pin me down and I'll be okay, honest," she requested gently.

"Not even a little bit? Maybe like this…" Ruth asked as she shifted, leaning only her torso over Kate's and kissed her softly. She looked down into blue eyes and saw a smile.

"That's okay. How about seconds? I'm awfully hungry," Kate said teasingly and Ruth gladly returned.

They kissed softly at first, exploring each others mouths, discovering how each liked being kissed. Tongues played, lips and teeth nibbled, and hands moved slowly along bare curves. Kate rolled to her side, wanting to be above. She held Ruth's head in the crook of her elbow and leaned over her, bringing their bodies closer with a strong arm.

Kate's breasts nestled against the blonde's and fire shot through her loins. Kate moaned into Ruth's mouth before pulling away, sucking in air into her starving lungs. All her worries were gone, and all that was left was the desire to be as close to Ruth as she could. She nuzzled into soft tresses and found a fleshy lobe, suckling it into her mouth. When Ruth moaned, the larger girl continued, listening to each sound, lovingly finding out what Ruth liked. Small hands stroked Kate's shoulders and hair, encouraging her to explore further.

Her lips found a silky smooth spot behind the ear and she brushed her lips across it. Ruth gasped and pulled on her arm, asking her silently to move. Kate did so without thinking about it, her concentration on the skin against her mouth. Her body covered Ruth's, settling down between her welcoming thighs.

When they pressed together, a mutual groan of pleasure escaped. They gyrated in unison, silk against silk. Ruth held on for dear life, her knees bending to enclose Kate's hips, bringing the larger girl closer to her. Kate could feel the beast inside, burning and wanting, but she pushed it aside, forcing it into a dark corner in her mind. She relaxed her powerful arms and let herself sink into Ruth's softness, taking a few heartbeats of time in order to savor their contact. Kate lifted her head and their kiss resumed, a little more powerful and demanding than before, but just as sweet.

Ruth's hands found the harder planes of Kate's back, her fingers and palms exploring as the kiss continued. She shifted constantly, their breasts brushing the others'. The ache of them got worse and the preacher's daughter firmly ended the kiss. Need took away any awkwardness she would have normally felt as she took one of Kate's larger hands and placed it on one craving peak.

"Touch them," she pleaded.

Kate needed no further encouragement. She propped her weight onto one elbow and straddled one of Ruth's legs, leaving one hand free to fondle a breast while her mouth sought the other. Her tongue teased the burgeoning nipple, circling it as it pebbled. When she drew the rose-tipped nipple into her mouth, Ruth tangled one hand into her hair, holding her in place. The larger young woman didn't mind, she had no intention of leaving the banquet. Kate followed her instincts, letting the way Ruth moved and moaned beneath her to guide her explorations.

A sudden arch let her know told her that a touch was good, a slight withdrawal made her aware of too strong a nip, and a soothing lick brought a smiling kiss to her brow.

Kate moved to the other peak, the attention given it just as keen. Now, with that hand freed, she let her fingers stroke the writhing girl in her arms. Kate's long limb allowed her to touch from flushed cheek to bent knee, but it still wasn't enough. They couldn't get as close as they wanted, needed. Her hand searched and stroked, constantly looking for its home-then it found it. She nestled her fingers into slick warmth, surprised by the pleasurable sensation. Her curious fingertips swirled and played, causing Ruth to tighten the hold on her hair almost painfully.

Ruth's hips arched against the callused fingers that teased and stroked her so intimately. Sweet fire burned in her veins and every inch of her felt consumed by a passion that she had never known to exist. Every touch, every caress given and received brought her closer to something unknown, but was eagerly awaited.

The blonde was lost in sensation and was barely aware of Kate shifting her fiery kisses to her ribs and stomach until a wet tongue dipped into her navel. Both her hands tangled into dark hair, instinctively pressing her further down. The loving hand left her and Ruth cried out for her loss, feeling cold and abandoned.

Then warm breath caressed her inner thigh and a measure of sanity returned to her. Ruth's fingers tightened into fists, grabbing dark hair.

"Kate?!? W-what are you doing?" she asked nervously. Ruth had suspected instinctively what Kate wanted to do, but it frightened her. It seemed sinful, almost perverted, she believed. This wasn't something good girls did. Did they?

"Shhh, it's okay Ruth. This is part of my dreams. Something I've always wanted ta give ya," she whispered huskily before pressing a soft kiss on damp curls. Kate didn't mention this was something she had learned about by eavesdropping behind two saloon floozies. That conversation had only added fuel to the dark-haired girl's sexual fantasies.

The preacher's daughter swallowed hard, uncertain, her hands still keeping a death grip in Kate's hair. She was torn between her upbringing and her love for Kate, "What are you g-going to do?" she asked, feeling extremely vulnerable.

"I'm gonna love ya," Kate said reverently. The words were spoken with both wonder and joy, taking away all the fear. Ruth's hands relaxed and she let out a shaky breath, trusting Kate and their love enough to let her continue. She heard Kate whisper a soft 'thank you'.

Warm hands guided her knees upwards until they rested over broad shoulders before beginning light, massaging strokes along her legs. Ruth closed her eyes, every nerve focused on what was happening. Kate's hot breath teased at Ruth, making the wait more difficult for her. An ache throbbed inside, one that could only be soothed by the one she loved, and the wait became unbearable. Her hips arched, looking for relief and found it.

The touch was frightening for a moment as a warm tongue glided over her heated flesh. As it continued, she realized the pleasure the gentle caresses brought her, and the need became stronger, a burning craving that had to be satisfied. Her hands reached out, finding silky hair and held on, urging Kate for more. Ruth panted, her excitement leaving her lost in a world of pleasure as the older girl's mouth forged into new territory. She could feel something growing, expanding, bringing her closer as she gasped in one large breath and held it just as her world exploded and fell away into darkness.


Joe Phillips peered around the tree he was hidden behind and looked into the small campsite. His eyes squinted as his focus searched through the light morning haze, then rested on the two young women bundled together next to the dying fire. As the mist parted, the sight he saw left him swallowing hard.

Both females were obviously naked. One long bare leg peeked out from under the blanket and was bent at the knee. The smaller escapee was sprawled over Sheriff Randell's little hellion, her bare back towards the fire. He spit on the ground and cursed. Carl was going to have a cow. It didn't take a schoolmarm to add two plus two over this situation.

His kid not only helped the prisoner escape and stole a horse; she also obviously became a lover with her. Joe stared at the entangled women as they slept. His upbringing told him it was unnatural, but something about the way they…well, he couldn't find the words for it. They looked…content, peaceful. The flush of young love was written all over them. The man felt torn. Part of him said this was all wrong, and another piece of him wanted to walk away and forget he found them.

He knew Carl was furious over the whole thing as it was and this would add oil to the fire. Joe shook his head. Something about the sheriff's behavior had bothered the rancher since he agreed to ride with the man. The man seemed almost fanatical about fetching those girls back. Carl's anger was way out of proportion over the situation. Sure, the girl had left with a horse, but Kate had ridden that same horse for ages and considered him hers.

Then there was something funny about the sheriff's accusation that Ruth had turned thief. Hell, everyone knew the girl was a good kid. She never caused any trouble and had always lent a helping hand to the more needy. She was the perfect preacher's daughter. Why was the sheriff so damned hot about bringing her back? Why not let them go and forget it? All Joe knew was that his gut feeling told him to go with Carl. Something wasn't right about the whole damned thing.

Joe stood and headed back to find the sheriff.

Carl Randell stood over his sleeping daughter, his face red and furious, his hands held into tight fists. Joe eyed him nervously, not sure what to think. The rancher felt almost detached, like the whole thing was a dream, only to snap back to reality when Carl savagely kicked Kate in the ribs with the toe of his boot. The girl woke with a gasping scream, waking her lover. The sheriff sent another kick his daughter's way and connected solidly with her hip. Another cry of pain.

"You little whore!" the big man yelled between his clenched teeth as he grabbed a fistful of dark hair and pulled Kate to her feet. Ruth rushed up from the ground and threw herself at the sheriff, without any concern for her own safety. The heavy man flicked her away with a backhand to her jaw. Ruth hit the dirt, dazed.

"Carl! Stop this! Are you crazy? You're gonna kill her!" Joe shouted as the man began punching Kate's ribs and stomach. The sheriff didn't stop, acting like he didn't hear the other man's voice.

Carl kept up his punishing blows, striking the brunette's face while keeping her upright by her hair.

"Damnit Carl, let her go!" Joe yelled as he grabbed the sheriff's arm, "Enough!"

"It ain't ever enough! She's a worse than a whore! Fucking another bitch, she ain't natural!" he snarled.

Joe kept hold of his grip on the sheriff's gunarm, refusing to let him go. "Carl, listen to me…you can't kill her. Send her to a convent; lock her up in a sanitarium, anything! But_don't_kill_her Sheriff, it's wrong!" Joe said, trying to talk some sense into the furious man. Joe locked eyes with Carl, trying to make his point. He didn't see Ruth get to her feet and pull a revolver from Kate's saddlebag. The metallic click of the firing pin being pulled back made both men freeze.

The sheriff turned his head to face the blonde. "Put it down little girl, or you're next," he threatened, convinced she wouldn't fire. Ruth looked at him, no expression on her face but resolve.

"I'll be damned if I return with you to Silver Creek sheriff. I'd rather be dead than have you rape me like you did Kate," she said, her voice steady.

Joe felt bile try to rise in his throat. He didn't doubt the girl's words or her accusation. It all made sense. The anger, the determination to get them back…it was all over the man's pride and his dick. His anger wasn't over anything but his loss of his next victim.

"Carl, it's over. I want you to let go of Kate and take your gun out of the holster. Drop it to the ground real slow," he ordered.

"Phillips, I'm gonna arrest ya and haul ya in fer interferin' with the law," Carl growled.

"No you're not. I'm taking your badge and suggesting you get your ass outta this county."

"Ya ain't got the authority ta take my badge."

"The hell I ain't. If you don't get the hell outta here, I'm gonna tell the good folks exactly what's been going on. There won't be a decent man in Silver Creek that won't want to hang you for what you've done. Hell, I bet we can get a woman or two to testify you've done the same thing to them. So, it's your choice. Either you resign right now or-"

Carl let Kate drop to the ground and pulled a knife from its sheath with a feral growl. Joe saw it coming and swiveled away, only taking a small slice to his ribs.

Now free of the rancher's grip, he yanked his revolver from the holster and aimed it at Ruth.

"Drop it you little whore," he ordered. Ruth tightened her grip and didn't say a word.

"I said drop it!" he shouted, then lowered his voice to a low rumble, "Or I can see how many bullets I can plug into this bitch," he threatened, his boot kicking the beaten girl on the ground, the barrel of his gun lowering.

Ruth's hands shook and the gun quavered as uncertainly made her pause.

"Drop it Ruth, or she dies," he promised, his cold stare unwavering. Ruth let the revolver drop to the ground. Carl smiled nastily and looked down at his daughter.

"Say bye bye to yer Pa whore!" Carl took careful aim and tightened his finger on the trigger.

"No!" Ruth screamed as the deafening sound of a shot rang through the air.



Joe tossed the last heap of dirt onto the makeshift grave and wiped the sweat from his forehead.

"May God have Mercy on your soul." The rancher pulled the brass sheriff badge from his pocket and stared at it thoughtfully before dropping it onto the grave. He picked up the shovel and returned to the small campsite.

Ruth sat wrapped in a blanket next to her companion, watching the young woman sleep and holding her hand. The brunette's face was swollen from the blows she had taken but her features were serene.

Kate had been lucky, only having one cracked rib and a split lip. The rest of her injuries were painful bruises. They had bound her ribs and applied cool water compresses to her skin and let her sleep, figuring it was the best medicine-that and Ruth's loving presence. Her father's death had ended her living nightmare.

Joe remembered the shooting with such clarity. Everything had slowed, making every second seem like minutes. Carl aiming at his kid, Ruth rushing forward, the sight of his own hand firing at the large man above him, and the sound of the sheriff hitting the ground in a lifeless heap. The rancher wiped his palms on his pants, still shaking a little at his one and only killing. He didn't regret it though. Carl had been a dangerous animal and the world was a safer place without him.

The rancher sighed and restarted a fire. He would remain until Kate was back up on her feet and then head back home. In the meanwhile, he pushed aside the thoughts of what possible consequences of his actions would bring. It would better if he kept his hands busy and fixed then some lunch. Joe fetched a kettle and filled it with water from the brook.

"I can do that Mr. Phillips," Ruth offered.

"No, you just stay there and keep care of Kate. I figure I can manage a meal without burning it," he said with a grin, "Besides, you look like you can use a bit of a nap. You're kind of pale. Why don't you lay down and rest a spell?" he suggested. The girl nodded and settled down on her back next to Kate. She couldn't relax and fidgeted.

Joe noticed that she looked uncomfortable and guessed at the reason why.

"Ruth," he said softly, "it's okay, go ahead. I won't mind."

The girl looked at him and blushed before turning to her side and curled up next to the brunette with a blissful sigh. Within moments Ruth was asleep.

"Joe, you're a sentimental fool," the rancher muttered to himself.

The End

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