Disclaimer : See Part 1
Feedback : Constructive criticism and feedback, both welcomed at email@example.com
Author's Note : None of the characters from one novel cross over to the other, so this novel is entirely standalone, but it exists in the same continuity as my earlier novel "After Echoes from a Gun" (available now for Kindle from Amazon as "Gunfire Echoes"; check out my other novels for sale there or on Smashwords for a wide variety of other ebook formats). There is also at least one connection to Squire's Isle hidden in here as an Easter egg.
Copyright © 2013 Geonn Cannon
Sarah decided the best time to leave town would be late afternoon. That would give her enough time to get Macy out of town and to an appropriate spot to get rid of her without worrying about anyone seeing or hearing anything. She approached the jail a few minutes before suppertime. One of the men flanking the door tightened his grip on the butt of his rifle when he spotted her. She held her hands up and moved back a step. "I-I'm sorry. I'm just here to see the sheriff. She told me to come by--"
Macy came out of the building and said, "Ease up, Horace." The man relaxed, and Macy motioned for Sarah to follow her. "Come on inside. I'm about ready to go. Bandit's probably itching to be back with you."
Sarah smiled and looked at her horse as she walked inside. Seeing him tied to the hitching post like that made her feel like he was imprisoned, too. At least the sheriff was going to let her take him when they left. She looked around the front room of the jail and saw six volunteers, plus the two sitting outside. The deputy, Henry Rucker, was reading a dime novel with his feet up on his desk. He looked up as she entered and dipped his chin in greeting.
"Lot of effort for just two men," Sarah said. She looked at Clark and Joshua, both of whom were sitting on the edges of their cots. Clark frowned at her, but Joshua seemed to be a thousand miles away. Sarah walked closer to the bars and met Clark's eyes. "They some kind of really bad guys?"
She felt a hand on her shoulder and turned to see Macy easing her away from the cells. "You might not wanna get too close, ma'am. Dangerous criminals tend to be a mite unpredictable."
Macy kept her hand on Sarah's shoulder a few seconds longer than necessary, but Sarah was surprised to find she didn't find it offensive. She licked her lips and nodded before she turned her back on the men in the cells.
"Sorry about that. I've never been in a real prison before."
"This is just a town jail," Macy said. "The prison is up in Kansas. That's where these guys are heading. And yeah, it might be a little overkill, but we're not taking any chances. There's a chance these fellas are associated with the Lucas gang."
"Lucas?" Sarah said. "Doesn't ring a bell." She looked over her shoulder at Clark and hoped he got the message. "Is he a dangerous man?"
"Was," Henry said. "Before Macy's pop put a bullet in 'im."
Sarah's eyes widened. "Your father killed Daniel Lucas?"
"Thought you hadn't heard of him."
Sarah looked at Henry and tried to act casual. "It didn't occur to me until just now. He was a bad man."
Macy kept quiet as she took some things from her desk drawer and stuck them into the pockets of her jeans. She picked up her gun and slipped it into the holster, glaring at Henry as she prepared to leave. He didn't notice her expression and continued his diatribe. "He was a fool criminal who got a bunch of other fool criminals to follow him. All it took was one bullet to quiet him down for good."
"Henry," Macy said. "That's enough."
Sarah refused to look at the deputy for fear that he'd see the hatred in her eyes.
"You ready?" Macy asked.
"Yeah, let's go." She looked at the deputy one more time before she followed Macy outside.
Macy stopped between the sentries and looked toward the edge of town. She turned to them, hands on her hips. "Keep your eyes peeled. They tried to big, loud assault so they might go for sneaky and quiet this time. You start feeling sleepy or thirsty, you get a replacement before you nod off or go out to the bar. Hear me?"
"Yes, ma'am," the one she'd called Hector said.
"I'll most likely see y'all again in the morning. Listen to Henry while I'm gone."
She stepped off the boardwalk and untied her horse, letting Sarah untie Bandit on her own. Sarah noticed Macy had a large pack, which she added to her horse's saddlebags, but she didn't comment on it as they mounted and gathered their reins. Macy pulled back and looked at Sarah. "You're gonna have to take the lead, since I don't know where you live."
Sarah mentally cursed herself, but it wasn't the end of the world. She would be in Macy's sights for the entire ride, but she could also take the opportunity to lead Macy into a trap. She nodded and clicked her tongue to urge Bandit forward. Macy fell in beside her, riding a few feet to Sarah's left.
"How far is it to your home?" Macy asked.
"It's a pretty good trip. Sorry..."
"No, it's fine," Macy said. "I've got a pack, so I can camp out if I need to. I was just kind of curious about what kind of ride we got ahead of us."
Sarah said, "It's a ways."
"No problem. It's been a while since I had a good long ride." She looked over and said, "Probably feels nice to be back on Bandit, eh?"
Actually, Sarah had ridden him most of the way to town that afternoon. But she nodded and smiled. "Feels real good. I'd given up hope. I mean, not that I doubted your abilities or anything, but I thought it was unlikely."
"It was," Macy admitted. She patted her horse on the neck. "I'd be a mess if this guy ended up getting lost. Name's Harlequin. I call him Harley."
Sarah looked over the horse's brown coat, a cloak of white starting underneath the saddle and spreading back along its haunches. "I like it." Sarah kept her eyes forward and her voice steady as she scanned the road leading out of town. "Did he belong to your father?"
"No," Macy said. "Man came through town with a warrant in his name. He was ready to stop running, but he was worried about what would happen to Harley. I offered to keep an eye on him, and the guy agreed. He went peacefully after that."
Sarah said, "What if the guy gets out of prison?"
Macy shook her head sadly. "Got killed by another prisoner about a year after he went in. Misunderstanding, something stupid like that."
"You seem to take death pretty hard. I mean, considering you killed two people in as many days, it just seems strange is all."
"I'm not heartless just because I wear a badge. If I thought I could get away with it, I wouldn't even load my gun. I don't want to kill anyone, but I'm just as particular about not being killed myself. So I do what I have to in order to make sure I'm not the one lying in the grass when things calm down."
Sarah just nodded at that, and the two women lapsed into silence as they rode out of Roman. The sun was getting lower in the sky; she would do her best to make sure Anna Macy never lived to see it rise again.
The shadows from the hills flanking Roman stretched out ahead of them, heralding the fact that it was close to nightfall. Macy accepted the fact Sarah wasn't too interested in talking and fell back a little to watch the other woman as she rode. There was definitely something off about her. At one moment she would be meek and compliant, the picture of conformity. The next something would flip a switch inside her head and she'd be borderline cold. The way her eyes hardened when Henry was talking about Daniel Lucas was almost frightening.
She looked away from Sarah and focused on the landscape they were crossing. Bright fields of purple and yellow flowers stretched out on either side of them, barely visible in the dying light. The setting sun had caught all the clouds on fire, unexpectedly painting them pink and red and purple. It was like a seascape painted by a child; all the wrong colors but extraordinarily beautiful.
Sarah was watching the clouds as well, and Macy took advantage of her distraction to examine her. She was dark-haired but fair, with high cheekbones and hazel eyes. She really was quite beautiful, despite her apparent affinity for men's clothing. Macy had never seen any women wear a man's outfit quite that well, in fact. Her hair was long, but pinned back so that it trailed down over her shoulders as she rode.
A thought occurred to her and she frowned. "Hm."
"Nothing," Macy said. "Just how far away is your home?"
"A couple of miles. I've never really measured it. Why?"
Macy shook her head. "Nothing, it's just that you said it was quite a ways out here."
"If you want to turn back, I think I'll be safe--"
"No," Macy said. "I promised to escort you safely to your door, and I'll do that. But did you walk all the way to Roman this morning?"
Sarah seemed to tense up and she shook her head. "No, I rode in with someone else. They passed on through, on their way to Oklahoma City."
"Oh." Macy chuckled. "I just wanted to make sure I wasn't giving you back one horse and making you abandon another back in town."
Sarah smiled, and Macy decided to let the matter drop.
"You know, I packed some dinner. Enough for both of us, if you wanted to stop and have something to eat on the way. When's the last time you had a picnic?"
"Hm. More recently than you might think."
Macy didn't know what to think about that. She rode on for a while. "Well, if you feel like eating something let me know."
Sarah hesitated and then nodded. "Okay. Thanks. Appreciate that."
There was that wall again, the coldness that didn't quite fit with the rest of Sarah Lamb's personality. She had something else going on in her mind, something that she was trying her best to keep from revealing. Macy decided to leave Sarah alone with her thoughts; if she wanted to confide, she'd be there to hear it.
Sarah kept her eyes peeled for a secluded spot to do what needed done. She didn't have a lot of options. There were three or four little towns out this way, all of them within walking or riding distance of Roman, and she could claim to be from any one of them without Macy thinking twice about it. The problem was which town to aim for, and how to get to it.
There were a few wooded areas that she could claim as shortcuts, places where it was unlikely anyone would disturb them until the deed was done. She was concerned about what she would do with the body; she didn't have the tools to bury it, and she felt uncomfortable leaving it out where anyone could happen across it at any time. She was running out of time; if Macy was wondering about how she got to town, it wouldn't be long before other pieces started to fall into place. She needed to end this.
She didn't want to rush and make a mistake, but she wanted it over with. She wasn't looking forward to the moment when she pulled the gun and took Anna Macy out of the picture, but it had to be done. If her father was still around, Sheriff Macy's body would have been in the grass right next to Jack's that first day. No hesitation and no cowardly running away. Just one bullet and then a quick turn-around to get back the money the sheriff had taken. How'd it get so complicated? Why had she let it get so complicated?
If she had to lay blame, it was on Macy's eyes. Brilliant green almonds, and the way the strands of her blonde hair caught in her eyelashes when she wasn't wearing a hat. Sarah shook her head to rid herself of the troublesome image. She'd killed two people in her life, both during robberies. They were just little jobs that she'd taken to hone her skills to take over after her father was killed. She had pulled the trigger to save herself from catching the bullet herself and she never thought twice about it.
She'd never thought about them as real people. She never looked into their eyes or sat in their quiet little home. She didn't know what they named their horse, for God's sake.
Those details shouldn't have made it harder. She was still protecting herself, still looking out for her people. Sheriff Anna Macy was dangerous and needed to be dealt with sooner rather than later. Sarah tightened her hands on the reins and nodded toward a copse of trees next to a stream. "We need to cut through there."
"Are we heading for Calvin?"
The name was unfamiliar. "You know it?"
Macy nodded. "My father used to take me there for the farmer's market. Got the biggest watermelons you ever saw."
Sarah just nodded and kept facing forward. After the horse question, this could have been a test. There was no way for her to know if Calvin really had a farmer's market, or if they offered watermelons. Hell, for all she knew Calvin was just a name Macy pulled out of thin air. Any affirmative reaction would prove she was lying and all hell would break loose.
"I just relocated here, and I haven't really had much time to explore the town," Sarah said. "I'll have to keep my eyes out for those watermelons."
Macy said, "You'll thank me when you do." They reached the stream and Macy suddenly came to a stop. "Hold up."
"Nothing's wrong. But it's starting to get dark. I figured this is as good a place as any to stop and eat for a bit. I don't know about you, but I've got a powerful hunger."
Sarah looked around at the tree cover, hearing the water even though it was hard to really see it in the dim light. Water was good for getting rid of a body; just drop it in the mud and let it drift off to somewhere else. She couldn't think of a reason to turn down the invitation. "All right. As long as it's not an imposition."
"Happy to have someone to eat with for a chance." Macy climbed off the horse and guided him to the water for a drink. Sarah did the same with Bandit and then looked at the woods.
"I'm... going to get some firewood."
Sarah went off into the woods and looked at what she had to work with. Rocks, sticks... anything that could conceivably cause a fatal injury. She picked up a stone and tested its weight in her palm. Oh, God, the sheriff... she fell off her horse and she banged her head on a stone. She wasn't breathing! She tried to hold the stone in a way that wouldn't bash her fingers as well, but it was shaped wrong. She dropped it, and then began picking up firewood. It was just a little spark, and it jumped... it jumped right onto her sleeve. And oh, God, I didn't know fire could move so fast!
She had an armful of firewood when she heard movement through the trees. "Sheriff Macy? Is something wrong?"
"Didn't I tell you to call me Anna?"
"Sorry." The sheriff was just a silhouette through the trees. She moved closer to the sound of Sarah's voice. Sarah thought about dropping her firewood and taking the gun from her belt. Could she hit a vague shape in the darkness? It would take those damnable eyes out of the equation. Just pull the trigger and kill a shadow. She was about to put down her armful when suddenly Macy was in front of her.
"Sarah?" Macy reached out, perhaps to make sure it was a person and not a tree. Her fingertip brushed Sarah's cheek in a way that made her tremble. The touch lingered, and then dropped in a way that felt almost like a caress.
Sarah ignored the goosebumps that had risen on her arms. She licked her lips and repeated her question. "Something wrong?"
Macy said, "You tell me."
Why were her damn hands full? She needed her gun. "What do you mean?"
Macy said, "I mean I know what's really going on here."
Sarah swallowed hard and said, "And?"
"What do you mean, 'and'?" Macy said. "I know what's going on, and I want to help."
Macy couldn't figure out Sarah's silence. "Sarah? Is everything all right?"
"Yeah. Just trying to process what you said. You want to help ?"
"Exactly what I... said. Here, that's probably heavy." She stepped closer and took the firewood from Sarah's arms. "Come on, let's get back to the horses." She turned before Sarah could answer, leading her through the trees to the clearing. Harlequin and Bandit were grazing together near the water's edge. Macy dumped the wood and wiped the dirt and wood chips from her blouse. She turned and saw Sarah eyeing her warily with that cold, hunted look she had.
"Don't be upset. You were very convincing, but I'm the sheriff. It's my job to know when people are lying to me. I just want to know how long it's been going on."
Sarah narrowed her eyes. "How long...?"
Macy sighed. "How long has your husband been hitting you?"
Sarah stared at her for a long time without answering. She opened her mouth and then turned to face the woods, crossing her arms over her chest.
"It's nothing to be ashamed of. It was nothing you did wrong; it's all on him." She walked up behind Sarah and held her hands out. She wasn't sure if it was over the line or not, but she finally rested her palms on Sarah's shoulders. Sarah tensed and Macy squeezed. "It's all right, Sarah. You don't have to be afraid of him. Not when you're with me."
Sarah seemed like she was in shock. "How did you know?"
Macy shrugged. "Little things. You were more afraid of spending the night away from home than you were of the robbers on the road. You don't want me to know where you live. You get this look in your eye sometimes. Like total fury. But then it goes away, like you've been trained not to stand up for yourself. And Bandit. The way you doted on him, the worry in your voice when you told me he was gone. I think he's the only friend you got."
"Yeah." Sarah's voice was soft.
"Well not anymore." Macy turned Sarah around and looked into her eyes in the darkness. "You got him... and you got me. I'll understand if you want to go on into town by yourself. I'm sure riding into town with the sheriff by your side would give your husband all kinds of ideas. We'll stay here for tonight, but in the morning I'll let you go on to Calvin or wherever you really live."
Sarah nodded. She still looked stunned.
"If you need anything, Sarah, you know where to find me now. There're rooms in town. Hell, there's a couch in my house. You decide you want a safe place to stay for a night, you know where you can find one."
"Why?" Sarah sounded genuinely confused, maybe even a little angry at the offer. "You don't even know me."
"I know enough."
Sarah pushed Macy's hands away and stepped back, turning toward the stream. "You don't know. You think you do."
"All right," Macy said. "Fair enough, maybe you've been lying to me every second I've known you. It hasn't been that long, so it's possible. But I think I know a scared woman when I see one. I can tell you don't want to go back to that town and face the man who hits you."
Sarah looked at her again. "Who the hell are you?"
"I'm someone who doesn't want you to get hurt anymore. I can't make you stay in Roman, but I can make sure you know that you don't have to stay. You're not trapped anymore." She reached up and brushed a strand of hair out of Sarah's face. "Spend one night out here. One night without worrying about if he's drunk or if you're going to breathe wrong. Just one night where you don't have to be afraid."
Sarah closed her eyes and her response slipped free without her meaning to speak at all. "All right." She didn't know where that came from, but it was out there. No way out now. To be honest, she wasn't sure she wanted a way out.
Sarah helped Macy build the fire, and then they split the bundles of food Macy had packed in her saddlebags. While they are, she watched the sheriff over the flames. She was surprised Macy hadn't heard her heart beating when she said she wanted to help. The idea of the sheriff pulling on a mask and lending a hand while they robbed the town's bank... it was surreal.
But Macy's true meaning was even more of a surprise. Apparently she wasn't as good an actress as she thought, but fortunately Macy came to a completely wrong conclusion. It was a conclusion she could use to her advantage, though. Being on the run from an abusive husband gave her a lot of leeway when it came to keeping secrets.
Macy was holding a roll, watching her while she ate. Finally she broke their silence. "You haven't said a lot. You okay?"
Sarah nodded. "Just trying to absorb the... cat being out of the bag." She licked her lips and wiped her sleeve across her mouth. "I tried... so hard to keep anyone from knowing."
Macy shook her head. "You hid it pretty well, but I've seen it happen way too many times to be fooled."
"When I woke up and saw Bandit was gone, I panicked." She decided to see how far she could push the story. "My husband loves this horse. I knew that if Bandit was gone, he'd take it out on me. Say I should've been keeping a better eye on him. So I rode around to a bunch of other towns to see if anyone had seen him around. Roman was my last chance. If you said you hadn't seen him, I'd have had to go home and... face the consequences."
Macy stood up and walked around the fire. She sat next to Sarah and put an arm around her, drawing her close. "I didn't know. Maybe it was fate."
"What do you mean?" Sarah asked. Macy's hand on her shoulder seemed to itch, but it was a peculiar feeling. Anyone else, at any other time in her life, she would have shrugged the hand off and walked away. But in front of the fire, with Anna Macy, it felt right. It felt okay. Welcoming. The thought frightened her, but not enough to move the hand.
"I thought killing that man, Clark Wilson's brother, was the worst day of my life. I never would have thought that anything good would come from it. But it led to you getting your horse back. And it led to the two of us meeting."
"Told you to call me Anna."
Sarah looked at her. Their faces were surprisingly close, Macy's body firm against her side. She could feel Macy's fingers tightening on her shoulder. Sarah's lips were dry, but she didn't want to lick them and send the wrong impression. She didn't move an inch for fear of implying something. Macy's eyes looked yellow in the firelight, and Sarah couldn't stop looking at them. "Anna, then," Sarah said.
"See?" Macy smiled. "That wasn't so hard."
Sarah blinked and looked down at Macy's lips. She couldn't want to kiss a woman. Especially not this woman. Then Macy licked her lips, and the moisture caught the light from the fire. Sarah looked at her mouth and then her eyes. She was aware she was trembling like a child, and she quickly pulled away from Macy. She was gasping as if someone had been choking her and let loose their hold at the very last second. Her vision swam, and she felt tears in her eyes.
"It was my fault. I'm sorry. I don't know what I was doin'."
Sarah placed her hands on the stump she'd been using as a seat, only then realizing that Macy was sitting on it, too. Their hips were touching, her ass pressed tight against the curve of Macy's. That seemed hugely intimate, and Sarah stood up. What in blue blazes? She pushed her hair out of her face and moved to the other side of the fire.
Maybe I'm going crazy. Maybe I'm possessed. Kissing a woman!
Macy seemed to be just as discomfited by what had nearly happened. She was staring into the fire, suddenly silent. Sarah sat down where Macy had been sitting before she moved, and rubbed her right hand over her left fist. She thought about suggesting they just ride on to Calvin, then realized it was just a cover story. She didn't have a husband in town, or a home. She pressed the heel of her hand against her eye and all she could see was Macy's tongue darting across her lips, the way they shone in the firelight.
The fire crackled between them and Macy stoked it a few times with an old branch.
The moon was high overhead when Macy finally spoke again. "I got two bedrolls. I brought 'em in case... just in case. I can set up over by the water if--"
"I'd like to sleep by the water," Sarah said.
"Okay. I'll just put mine up by the trees."
"Why? Sleep by the water for all I care." Sarah stood up and went to Harlequin. "Where are the rolls? Here?"
They started setting up their camp, rolling out the sleeping bags and dousing the fire. Sarah tethered Harlequin and Bandit to the trees and, when she turned around, she saw Macy stripping down to her underwear. She was wearing long johns under her clothes, and her hair fell loose around her face as she kicked the pile of clothes together to form a pillow. Her feet were bare, and Sarah surprised herself by staring at the toes. Such little feet. Everything about Anna Macy seemed so huge, but her feet were so small. Child-sized almost.
"How're the horses?" Macy asked.
"Fine." Sarah joined Macy at the bedrolls and decided that she would sleep fully dressed. She climbed into the bag, using her arm as a pillow as she stared at the sky. Anything to avoid looking over at Macy in those damned underwear. After a while, the sounds of movement from the other bedroll ceased and Sarah risked looking over. Macy had her hands under her pillow, chin lifted, scanning the sky.
"Do you like the stars?" Macy asked.
Sarah looked up. She'd never considered them. Sailors used them to navigate, but that didn't really help in the middle of Oklahoma. There were thousands of them. Clusters of little spots all across the night sky. The clouds from earlier had moved on, providing a clear view of all the little diamonds.
"Supposedly billions of light years away. Planets around all of 'em. People, too."
Macy frowned. "People?"
"Makes sense, right? I mean, look at all those stars. Even if all of 'em just have one little planet, that's a lot of empty space. And..."
She was quiet long enough that Sarah thought she'd fallen asleep. "Sarah?"
"I don't know. Sometimes I think about what we do to each other, and I hope we're not the best the universe has to offer."
Sarah looked over at her and saw that Macy was serious.
"I heard that all these stars have names," Sarah said, just to be talking.
"Heard that too."
"Surely not all of 'em. I mean, who could name all of these even if they had a hundred lifetimes?"
Macy said, "And then people are supposed to memorize those names."
"I could never do that."
"Me neither. But I gave some of them names myself." She pointed up. "See those three over there? There's three stars across, and then two stars leading up?"
Sarah looked and then saw what she meant. "Yeah."
"That's the Old Man's Shoe."
Sarah smiled in spite of herself.
Macy scanned the stars in search of something in particular. She pointed. "There? Those five stars."
"Sheriff's badge?" Sarah said.
"You're starting to understand me."
Sarah laughed, but she stopped when she realized what she was doing. This was a scam, a trick to get Macy to lower her guard. She had moved her gun to Bandit's saddlebag before dinner, and it was still there now. Macy should have been dead a dozen times over by now. She should have taken advantage of that stupid abuse story and used Macy's compassion to take her down. A quick hug, and then press the barrel into her gun and pull the trigger.
"That one," Macy said, unaware of Sarah's dark thoughts, "is my father."
Sarah looked at where Macy was pointing and saw a bright white dot at the far curve of the sky.
"I think it's a planet. Mars or... Venus. I don't know. It's only visible every now and then. That's why I chose it. My father. Checkin' up on me."
Sarah said, "I wish my father had a star."
"Why not?" Macy said. "It's just you, me and the universe out here. Pick one."
Sarah hesitated. She stretched her arm out and pointed at a dim spot at the far end of the sky, almost obscured by the trees. "There."
"Kind of far away."
"Perfect for daddy."
Sarah looked at Macy saw that she was staring at her. She wanted to look away, break the stare, but she couldn't. Macy offered a wan smile and then broke the stare for her.
"Good choice, then."
Sarah touched the back of her hand to her cheek. Macy had seen her cry. She oughta shoot her just for that. She wiped roughly at her cheeks and sniffled. "What are the other names?"
"There's a lot."
Sarah said, "We got until morning."
Macy was quiet for a long time, and then she stretched her arm up to the sky. Sarah followed her finger. "See those three over to the side, form kind of a square...?"
Macy only stopped naming stars only when she realized Sarah was asleep. Soft snores were coming from the other bedroll, so she lowered her arm across her chest and stared up at the sky. She might mock the people who named all these stars, but she definitely envied them. Every night they looked up and they saw something new, something that they had the brains to figure out. They knew why the moon was bigger tonight than it had been last week and they knew why it went from a sliver to a big bowl of milk and then back to nothing. She knew it had something to do with shadows, and she could understand when it looked like the planet was taking a bite of the moon. But when the shadow was shaped like a C? How could that happen?
She started thinking about what had happened by the fire. There'd been a frightening moment when she had no idea what would happen next. She didn't know if she was going to kiss Sarah, or if Sarah was going to kiss her, and she sure as God didn't know what would have happened after that.
Macy didn't like the way she felt around women. Especially the pretty ones. They made her all twisted inside, made her think things that she shouldn't. That was the reason she sent Henry down to the Valley Bar whenever a police presence was needed there. She knew it made him uncomfortable being around all those waitresses, but she was just as awkward with them. She didn't know how the other ladies in town handled eating there. She could barely walk in the door without having to wipe off her forehead.
Maybe all women don't feel the way you do when you go into that bar.
She silenced the voice immediately. She was just reacting to a pretty face and a nice body.
And who was the last man you felt that way about?
Macy rolled onto her side and gathered her makeshift pillow up to block her ears. She closed her eyes and thought about how Sarah had leaned into her embrace by the fire. What if Sarah had kissed her? She'd certainly seen something like that in her eyes, and she wasn't sure she was adverse to the idea. Her mouth was dry just thinking about the feel of Sarah's body against hers. So what would it have been like to feel her lips?
"No," Macy whispered. She brought her arm up over her head, pressing her forearm against her ear as if the voice was something she could block out. She soon fell asleep with her own voice echoing in her head. No, no, no, no, no.
Sarah woke suddenly, her hand frantically sweeping the bedroll for her weapon. She was unarmed, outside. Her memory caught up with her body, and she relaxed slightly. It was close to dawn, and the sky was just starting to turn blue in the far distance. More than enough light to see by. She looked over and saw that Macy was asleep, curled on her side, her lips moving slightly as she spoke in her dreams. She looked at the fire and felt like they had sat on that stump years ago instead of mere hours.
She pushed the bedroll down and crawled out, moving silently across the dew-wet ground in her bare feet. Bandit greeted her with a quiet whinny, but Sarah shushed him as she opened the bag and found her gun. She checked the ammunition and walked back to where Macy was sleeping. She cocked the hammer and aimed the weapon at Macy's forehead.
She uncocked the hammer and dropped the gun to her side.
This would be murder in cold blood. Cowardly murder at that, to shoot a woman in her sleep, sheriff or not. Murderer or not. This was the woman who killed Jack, the woman whose father had killed hers. Anna Macy had a debt, and Sarah was well within her rights to collect on it. She clenched her jaw and raised the gun. She cocked the hammer and closed one eye, using the sight to draw a line down Macy's jaw.
The gun clicked as she uncocked it, dropping her arm and turning away from the sheriff's uninterrupted dreams.
She wasn't going to shoot Anna Macy. If she couldn't do it now, there'd be no better opportunity, so she might as well face the facts. She carried the gun back to Bandit and stuck it into his saddlebags. The horse looked at her, but she ignored its wide black eyes as she walked back to the stream.
Macy was a sheriff. There was a time when Sarah would have considered that alone to be a crime punishable by death. Anyone wearing a badge was fair game. She knelt next to the stream and wondered what was different about Macy. Not because they had spent time together. She'd spent time with plenty of people she ended up killing and she'd never thought twice. She put her hand into the stream and let the water flow past her fingers.
Everything Macy had done since they met was based on protecting her. Giving her a place to sleep so she wouldn't have to ride home at night. Taking her out of the alley and taking her somewhere safe. Riding escort for her through the night just to make sure no one hurt her. Sarah looked over her shoulder. No one had ever done that for her. Her mother was long gone by the time she was old enough to ask, and her father believed in letting her learn from her own mistakes. No one ever stepped up for her, no one ever put their arm around her just as added protection from whatever the world might throw their way.
That made Macy different. Not just from other cops, but from everyone Sarah had ever known. Maybe that was why she felt so rested, like she'd just had the best sleep of her life.
Sarah flicked the water from her fingers and then ran her wet palms through her hair. There was a tree on the edge of the stream, tall and thick and leaning out over the water. She walked to it and sat with her back against the trunk, resting her arms across her bent knees and looking back toward camp.
She told herself it was just a direction to look, one option of many. She told herself she was keeping an eye on the horses and trying to make sure she wasn't blinded when the sun started to rise in the east. Anything to deny the implication that she was watching Macy sleep.
Macy rolled onto her back, moved her hair out of her face with one hand, and rubbed her eyes with the other. She stretched and pushed herself up to examine her surroundings. The sun was up, but still low enough to be blocked by trees. She spotted Sarah by the stream, her head turned to look out toward the water. No reason to panic. Look at her. Who wouldn't want to kiss those lips? The thought that she'd missed her chance made her heart hurt, but she ignored it. She cleared her throat and Sarah's head snapped forward to meet her gaze.
"Good morning," Sarah said. "How'd you sleep?"
Macy put a hand in the small of her back. "Terrible. I don't think anyone's ever had a good night's sleep on hard ground."
Sarah looked back over the stream, her brow furrowed.
Macy stood up, suddenly embarrassed to be standing in front of Sarah in her long johns. She gathered her clothes and held them in front of her like protection. "I'm just gonna... be in the woods for a second." Sarah nodded and Macy moved toward the trees. She found a tree that afforded privacy and took care of her morning business, knocking the back of her head against the tree as she thought about the night before.
Something could have happened. Something very bad, and very confusing could have very easily happened by the fire. She couldn't decide how she felt that it hadn't. Deprived? Relieved? Upset?
Christ, how long had she been crouching there? She stood up and pulled her underwear back up. She quickly pulled her jeans on, shrugging into her shirt as she walked back out of the woods. She left it unbuttoned and saw that Macy was busy striking their camp. "Sorry. I guess I kind of spaced out for a little bit."
Sarah said, "I was just worried about you."
Macy stopped next to Sarah, watching her load the bedroll onto Harlequin. Sarah ignored her as long as possible before finally meeting her eyes.
"I should probably take you up on that offer from last night. Riding on to town by myself. Don't know what my husband would do if... I rode in with a sheriff."
Macy nodded and looked down at her hands. "You sure?"
"Yeah. You done more than enough for me already. Saw me safely through the night. That's all you promised, and you delivered. Thank you for that."
"Yeah, a'course," Macy said.
Sarah started to turn away, and then leaned in. She kissed Macy's cheek, closer to her mouth than her ear and pulled back quickly as if she'd been burnt by the contact. She sucked her bottom lip into her mouth and stepped back. When she turned, Macy grabbed her arm and kept her from retreating.
"Stay," Macy said.
Sarah frowned. "What? Here?"
"No. Come back to Roman with me. Don't go back to him. I don't want him hurting you any more. Come back to Roman and let me help you. Let me keep you safe."
Sarah blinked and started to shake her head. "I don't think that's a very good idea. What... if he finds me?"
"I'll kill him."
Sarah's eyes widened. "You can't. You wouldn't."
"I don't know why," Macy said. "I don't know. But the thought of him hurting you, and keeping on hurting you... I could pull the trigger if I had to. If it came to that." She gently pulled Sarah closer, her hand soft on Sarah's arm. Sarah's face looked like someone wanting to flee, but her body was leaning in to Macy like she had to stay. "Whatever happens, he won't hit you anymore. I can at least make sure of that."
"Why are you doing this?" Sarah growled. "For me? Who the hell am I?"
"Someone who makes me feel like I never have before," Macy said.
Sarah pulled, but Macy's grip was too strong. "Let go of my arm."
Macy reluctantly released her. They stared at each other for a moment and Macy closed her eyes, the adrenaline of the moment fading and causing her to realize how idiotic she'd acted. She stepped back. "God, I should--"
Sarah put an arm around Macy's neck and pulled her close. Macy assumed it was an attack and brought her hands up to defend herself, but then Sarah's lips were on hers. Macy closed her eyes, furrowed her brow, and kept her hands up, focusing on how it felt to be kissing a woman. To be kissing Sarah. One of Sarah's hands was up in Macy's hair, and the other was on her cheek. Macy's arms were stuck, pinned between their bodies by Sarah's sudden assault. She cupped her palms around Macy's jaw and let her fingers rest on the smooth skin.
Macy opened her mouth to say something, just to make a sound, and Sarah took it as an invitation. Macy tried not to recoil when Sarah's tongue touched hers, and she managed if barely. She pushed her arms up and dropped them onto Sarah's shoulders. Sarah withdrew her tongue and Macy suddenly wanted it back, wanted to feel that again. She tentatively mimicked Sarah's move, slipping her tongue forward and feeling Sarah's lips wrap around it and suck.
"Huh," Macy said with a sharp exhale, finally finding the strength to pull back and break the kiss. Her eyes snapped open and she squirmed to free herself from Sarah's grasp, her cheeks now burning red as she looked around for something to focus on. She found the dark cinders where the fire had been the night before and cupped a hand over her eyes, staring at the black grass as she tried to slow down her heart.
Sarah put a hand on the back of Macy's head and stroked her hair. Macy closed her eyes and leaned back into the caress.
"Are you all right, Anna?"
"Women don't do that with each other." Her voice rough and trembling.
"Who told you that?" Sarah said. "Some man?"
Macy looked out over the water. Her eyes were full of tears when she looked back at Sarah. She wet her lips with a pass of her tongue and leaned in again. Sarah closed her eyes, and they kissed. It was slow, measured, gentle. Macy was aware of Sarah's hand in her hair, and she put her hand on Sarah's hip to pull her closer.
When the parted, Macy brushed her cheek against Sarah's. "Come home with me."
This time there was no hesitation this time. Sarah nodded. "All right."
It felt surreal riding back toward Roman. Sarah kept her horse a few paces behind Macy's so she could watch the sheriff. Macy hadn't spoken since they finished packing their things and started back the way they had come. She kept her eyes down, or turned her head to scan the fields they rode past. She seemed to be looking at everything but Sarah. Sarah didn't blame her. Everything about the day felt wrong. She should have been on a different road, should have been safe in the camp, should have been hauling Macy's body into the stream so it could get carried away by the current.
The ache in her chest surprised her, and she realized that it arrived alongside the thought of dealing with Macy's corpse. God, I've really screwed this up.
"You kidding me? You've got her right where you want her. Vulnerable. You get her all flustered and unarmed, you can show the people of this town what happens when they go up against the Lucas gang. You oughta run her nekkid through town before you finally put her down. Let her get a little humiliated..."
"Shut up," she snapped.
Macy twisted in the saddle to look back at her. "Pardon?"
"Nothin'." Sarah rode up alongside Macy. "Guess you're talking to me again."
"Lot on my mind," Macy said. "Not a lot of room for extra words. Sorry."
"Don't worry about it. I'm not really a talkative person, either." Sarah ran her right thumb over the reins where they crossed her left hand. "Anna?"
Macy looked over and Sarah realized she didn't know what she planned to say. " I don't have a husband, I'm not being beaten, you don't have to protect me because I'm the only killer around these parts. " She chewed her bottom lip and looked down at the ground without saying anything.
"You don't have to explain anything. I don't expect anything when we get back to my cabin. I just want to make sure you're safe. That kiss... was you being grateful. Trying to grab something you haven't had in too long."
Sarah was surprised to find there was a spark of truth in what she was saying.
"I'm just worried."
"About what?" Macy said.
Sarah decided to mix fact with Macy's fiction. "My husband loved me once. Treated me nice. But then things went wrong, you know. I figure maybe he just got to know me a little bit and decided I was more fun to hit than kiss." She pressed her lips together. "That's what I'm worried about. That when you know who I really am, you're going to hate me. You're gonna wanna hurt me, too."
Macy guided Harlequin closer to Bandit and reached out to touch Sarah's arm. Sarah wanted to slap the hand away, wanted to bark that she hated being touched. But for some reason, Macy's touch was fine with her.
"I ain't gonna hurt you, Sarah."
Sarah closed her eyes and nodded, and the sheriff dropped her hand and continued riding. Sarah was shocked to find her eyes were wet, and she ducked her chin even though Macy had to have seen the tears when they were talking. What's happening to me? she thought. Then she looked up and saw the answer was riding a few feet to one side, blonde hair loose on her shoulders.
Sarah wiped the back of her hand over her cheek and wondered if putting a bullet in Macy's head would have been the kinder option.
There was enough room in Macy's barn for both of their horses. Macy poured some fresh food for Bandit, told the horses to play well together, and then joined Sarah on the porch. "Come on in," Macy said. She unlatched the door and pushed it open. She crossed to the coffee table and picked up a lantern and some matches. When it was lit, the pale yellow glow reached across most of the living room and into the kitchen. She caught sight of the bedroom door, standing slightly ajar, and felt a tug. I want to take Sarah in there, God help me.
She rubbed her palms together, just for something to do, and said, "I should get back to Roman. Henry will be expecting me."
"Or you could kiss me again," Sarah said.
Macy looked into Sarah's eyes. She didn't remember crossing the distance between them, but suddenly Sarah's face was in her hands again and they were kissing. She expected the initial burst of insanity to wear off so the world could return to normal. She waited for the kiss to stop feeling so damn right. Instead, having her mouth against Sarah's started to feel like the most natural thing in the world.
She put her hands in the small of Sarah's back and pulled her close. She wanted to pull Sarah into her, wanted absolutely nothing between them. Sarah broke the kiss to gasp, and Macy immediately pulled her back for another. Her face felt hot and she couldn't catch her breath. She felt like she was suffocating. When she broke the kiss, she saw Sarah's eyes were closed. Freckles she'd never noticed before stood out across the bridge of her nose and under her eyes, and Macy instinctively kissed them.
"Anna," Sarah whispered.
"No, Anna... st-stop..."
Macy stepped back but kept her hands on Sarah's hips. "I've been waiting for so long for this, Sarah."
Sarah refused to meet Macy's eyes. "You've only known me for three days."
"That's not what I meant." Macy stepped forward and kissed Sarah's temple. "I just mean I ain't never done... this."
Macy shook her head. Sarah began kissing her neck, and Macy curled her fingers against the material of Sarah's shirt. She pushed Sarah backward across the room, bumping the bedroom door open with Sarah's shoulder. Sarah put her hands on Macy's shoulders and broke the kiss. Macy opened her eyes and saw Sarah staring at her.
"What am I doing?" she whispered.
Macy stroked Sarah's hair and kissed her between the eyebrows. Macy couldn't tell if Sarah was shaking or if it was just her own tremors transferring into her. Her heart was pounding, but she was willing to wait. If Sarah wanted to pull away and leave, she would deal with it. If Sarah wanted to just forget the past twelve hours had ever happened, Macy would be fine with that. She slid her lips along Sarah's eyebrow and was about to whisper that they could stop when Sarah's hands began moving again.
Fingers curled around the collar of Macy's blouse and Sarah released a shaking breath. "Let me take this off of you."
"Hurry." Macy closed her eyes and held her breath, focusing on how she could feel her heartbeat in her ears as her buttons came undone one at a time. Sarah swept her hands over Macy's chest, pressing gently through her undershirt, and Macy felt the shirt drop off her arms and down to the floor. She kicked it aside and lifted her arms so Sarah could pull her undershirt up and off. Sarah's hands brushed Macy's sides, her ribs and the curve of her breasts, and Macy couldn't stop a whimper from escaping. She bit her tongue trying to stifle it and dropped her arms to Sarah's shoulders.
When she opened her eyes, she saw Sarah staring at her breasts. The examination made her warmer, and she felt her nipples harden as if they'd been touched. "What?" she whispered.
Sarah blinked, as if she hadn't realized Macy was still there. She shook her head. "Nothing. God. Anna."
Each time they kissed, it was a little harder for Macy to believe it was really happening. It became harder to believe that she'd waited this long to surrender to her feelings. All those women who had turned her head, all those feelings she'd had. She just assumed everyone felt that way. She just assumed she hadn't met the right man. The only thing she could believe was this, right now; how warm Sarah's body was. How the skin of her cheeks felt under her thumbs.
Sarah suddenly pulled away and Macy grabbed her. "Don't." She was suddenly terrified that Sarah would walk out of the cabin and ride away.
"I'm not going anywhere." Sarah took Macy's hands and walked her over to the bed. She guided Macy down. "Let me do this for you, Anna. You've been waiting a long time. I need to do this."
Macy pushed herself up on the mattress, her back against the pillows as Sarah kissed her chest. Her lips and tongue ran all over Macy's breasts and stomach. She cupped Macy's breast in one hand, brushing her thumb over the nipple until it was painfully hard. Then she licked her lips, looked up into Macy's eyes, and took the nipple into her mouth. She used her tongue to wet it, then began to gently suck. Her fingers and thumb massaged the other breast until Macy was writhing underneath her, moaning louder with each pass.
Sarah kissed Macy's stomach and dropped her hands to the catch of Macy's jeans. It popped loose, and Macy lifted her hips. Sarah hooked her fingers in the belt loops and tugged it down, pausing to make sure the long johns came down with it. As the material was pulled away, Macy was embarrassed to discover she could smell herself. Sarah kissed her thighs and Macy lifted her hips off the mattress with a groan.
At first she was glad Sarah took the initiative. She wanted to take note of everything Sarah did so she could do the same when it was her turn. But the second Sarah's tongue touched her, as soon as Sarah's slender thumb pressed between her folds and opened her, all coherent thought became a talent she didn't have. Sarah rubbed with her thumb, using the pad to circle Macy's clitoris before spreading moisture through the thick blonde hair between her legs.
And a finger, then a second. Touching her and spreading her open. Sarah kissed her stomach as her fingers moved inside, and Macy made fists in the sheets as she cried out. Sarah kissed up her body and kissed her breasts again, and Macy leaned down to kiss Sarah's lips. She cupped the back of Sarah's head and groaned. "I don't want it to hurt..."
"It won't," Sarah said. "It's gonna feel good, Anna. I promise."
Macy squeezed her eyes shut, pressing down on Sarah's hand. She bit her bottom lip and then cried out. "Oh, Sarah, what are you doing to me?" Sarah extended her thumb to brush her clit. When Macy looked down, she saw that Sarah's finger was extended like a gun with her thumb resting on the hammer. Macy groaned and said, "You gonna shoot me?"
Sarah recoiled, her eyes widening and locking on Macy's face. Macy reached down and covered Sarah's hand with her own. "No... Sarah, don't stop."
Sarah dropped her head and kissed Macy's stomach, stroking with her thumb as she twisted her fingers inside of Macy's body. Macy dropped her head back on her shoulders, pressing her legs against the side of her bed so that her midsection seemed to hover. Everything from her ribcage to her thighs seemed overloaded, every sensation doubled, tripled, just magnified until she felt like she was going to pass out.
She finally understood what she'd been depriving herself of. She grabbed Sarah's head with both hands and began to pant, whispering Sarah's name whenever she had the power of speech. Her toes curled, and her body went limp. She collapsed, struggling to catch her breath, her hands moving between her legs to cover herself. Sarah kissed all over the backs of Macy's hands before sliding up her body and kissing slack lips.
"Anna? You okay?"
"I want to do that again," Macy said, her voice trembling.
"Oh, you're gonna be one of those." She kissed Macy's collarbone and ran her tongue up Macy's throat.
Macy ran her hands down Sarah's back, her shirt rough under her hands. "I want to... do that with you. But I need... I-I gotta..."
Sarah shushed Macy and kissed her lips. Macy moaned, her hand shaking where it rested on Sarah's back. Sarah reached down and pulled Macy's hands away from her crotch and pressed her palm against her pubic hair. Macy jerked away from the touch, but Sarah kept her steady rhythm going until Macy began to melt into the bed once more. Sarah chuckled quietly when she broke the kiss, her fingers gathering Macy's wetness.
"It's okay." She kissed Macy's chin and started to slide down. "I got some more tricks I can use. But you're gonna owe me."
Macy closed her eyes as Sarah pushed her legs apart. She lay back on the mattress and swore that this time she was going to take mental notes for when it was her turn.
Macy took her time undressing Sarah. She knelt on the floor and worshipped Sarah's bare breasts, and then lifted Sarah's bare legs onto her shoulders so she could use what she'd learned earlier. Before long, Sarah was clutching handfuls of her hair and gasping her name. When she'd paid back what she owed, their lovemaking became more leisurely. They both climbed under the blankets and took their time exploring their bodies. At one point, Sarah mentioned it was sometime in the afternoon.
"Your deputy might be worried."
"He knows I'm a big girl," Macy whispered. "Come here. There's something I wanna try."
In retrospect, Sarah shouldn't have been surprised by the aggression. Someone who'd been deprived for their entire adult life would have some control issues. But their grand finale was a wild, rough session in which Macy wrapped Sarah's legs around her waist and began thrusting, using the headboard for balance as she rocked the bed against the wall.
Macy had finally collapsed facedown on the mattress, eyes closed, her face bright red. Her hair had fallen over her face in a web, and Sarah couldn't stop herself from running her hands through it. Dangerous, she thought as she listened to Macy fall into a steady sleep. Really dangerous. Deathly dangerous.
She stretched out next to Macy and put her hand in the middle of Macy's back. She wanted to watch her sleep, wanted to take the time to process what they had just done and what it meant, but before long her snores had joined Macy's to fill the small bedroom.
Sarah wasn't surprised when Macy finally fell asleep. She rolled them both, easing Macy down to the mattress. She noticed how Macy's hair always seemed to get in her face, as if it was trying to create a veil. Sarah tenderly brushed the strands back, hooking them behind Macy's ear and letting her hand linger. Macy moaned quietly in her sleep and arched her back. "Sarah..."
Just a simple word, but it made Sarah blush. She slipped her arm out from underneath Macy's shoulders, drawing the blanket up over her naked body before she padded quietly out of the room. She remembered the water Macy had taken from the icebox during their first meeting and went to it. She found a clean cup and drank it in a single swallow. She touched her wrist to her lips and closed her eyes as she tried to clear her head.
She didn't know what had just happened between her and Macy. She didn't want to think too hard about it, but her mind refused to move on to any other topic. She could see Macy's face, twisted in passion, and the taste of her was still on Sarah's tongue. She lifted the cup for another drink before she remembered it was empty, and she put the empty cup down on the counter and ran her fingers along the cool side of the glass.
Sex was a tool. She used it to convince people to lend her support, or to distract them, or to make someone else angry. She'd slept with a fair portion of the people who made up her gang. It didn't mean anything. She decided a long time ago that she was one of those people who just didn't enjoy sex, but she could put it to good enough use. She had been sixteen when she first snuck into Deacon's bedroom and convinced him that she would be a better choice to follow in her father's footsteps. She'd never enjoyed sex. She just liked what it could bring her.
Sarah reached up and ran a hand through her hair. It was still sweaty, and she remembered how it had dripped on Macy's bare chest. Something about her sweat on Macy's body made her heart soar just thinking about it.
"What's the matter with you," she whispered. She looked out the window and saw the sky had darkened dramatically. Thick clouds were moving in from the north, stacked like blackened marshmallows. The air was humid and she knew they were in for a heck of a storm if it didn't pass them by. She thought of the horses, if they would be safe, and that brought her thoughts to the weapon stowed safely in Bandit's saddlebags.
Macy was asleep. Dead to the world. It was the first time Sarah hadn't taken advantage of the sheriff's distraction to hold a gun on her, and she had no intention of making up for it.
She jumped at the voice and spun around. Macy was standing in the bedroom doorway, her undershirt hastily pulled back on to cover herself. It didn't reach all the way to her thighs, and Sarah had to quickly look away from such a tempting sight.
"I just wanted to get some water."
"Get me some too?" Macy said. "Then come back to bed."
Sarah nodded and watched Macy walk away. She got another cup of water from the icebox and carried it into the bedroom. She kicked the door shut as the first rumble of thunder reached the homestead.
Rain pattered against the windows of the bedroom and thunder occasionally shook the glass. Sometimes it felt like the ground was being rearranged underneath them, but neither of them took much notice. Macy dipped two fingers into the cup of cold water and then let it drip across Sarah's chest. The water made goosebumps rise on her skin, and Macy bowed her head and licked them away. She traced the trail of water, holding Sarah down as she tried to writhe, and then took a hard nipple into her mouth and sucked until Sarah wrapped her legs around Macy's waist and pulled her down.
Macy kept her lips on Sarah's skin as often as possible. She could taste where the sun baked into the flesh of her neck, the dry sweat between Sarah's breasts deliriously appealing. Sarah was quiet during sex, and Macy was surprised to discover how vocal she wanted to be. She had to bite her tongue to keep from babbling, eventually resting on top of Sarah and nibbling on her ear. As she thrust her hips, she whispered whatever came into her head. "I want to make love to you every day. I want to wake up with you every morning. I want to feel you behind me when I'm sleeping."
Macy tried to get as much of Sarah between her legs as possible. She straddled Sarah's face, her thighs... she guided Sarah's feet and hands to her mound and closed her legs around them, rocking her hips with desperate gasps as she explored Sarah's body with the most neglected part of her flesh.
Sarah's silence made it all the more arousing when she did speak. She never said much; just the occasional "Yes" or "There" or a heart-stopping "Anna."
Eventually, they both slept. The storm occasionally woke them, and Macy left the bed only once to make sure Bandit and Harlequin were weathering the storm well.
It was early afternoon when the storm finally passed. Macy woke to hear silence, the sound of distant thunder continuing its march down the plain. She looked toward the window, and then searched the bed for her errant lover. Sarah was curled up on the opposite side of the bed, her back to Macy, just one good roll from ending up on the floor. Macy ran her fingers down Sarah's spine, and Sarah arched her back and purred quietly before looking over her shoulder.
"Sarah. You were about to fall."
Sarah rolled over and scooted closer to Macy. Her head found the curve of Macy's neck and shoulder, settling in. "I think I already did," she said softly.
Macy kissed the top of Sarah's head, her eyes closed as she breathed in Sarah's scent. She couldn't imagine anyone hurting this woman, couldn't think of any secret that would affect how she felt. She picked up strands of Sarah's dark hair and let it fall between her fingers, feeling it tickle her ribs when it landed.
"I think you're stuck with me, Sarah Lamb."
Sarah shifted, raising her head to look into Macy's eyes. "I won't hold that against you. If the time comes."
Macy pushed Sarah's head back down and continued stroking her hair. She listened to the sounds of Sarah's breathing, waiting to hear the moment she fell into slumber, but she fell asleep long before that happened.
The storm left the world oddly colored. The sky was a deep red, almost orange, and the air felt scrubbed clean. Macy sat on the edge of the bed and dressed while Sarah continued to doze. She tugged her boots on before she turned and stretched over the sleeping woman. Sarah's eyes opened just as Macy kissed her, and she fell into the kiss as if it was part of an extended dream.
She stroked Sarah's hair and said, "I gotta get to Roman. Make an appearance. The storm didn't hit us too bad, but I need to make sure the town is okay."
"You can stay here as long as you want." She licked her lips. "I want you to stay a long, long time. Just so you know."
"You made that clear," Sarah said.
Macy blushed and kissed Sarah again. "I better go." She brushed her hand down Sarah's cheek one more time before she pushed away from the mattress and left the room. She could feel Sarah watching her go, and she looked back at the doorway. Sarah quickly looked away and Macy said, "I'll see you tonight."
"Yeah," Sarah said.
Macy walked out of the house before she was drawn back to the bedroom. Twenty-four hours ago, she would have said she'd be fine with never having sex. Now it was a struggle to think about going a handful of hours without feeling Sarah's hands on her. A woman. A woman! She laughed at the thought and felt a blush rising in her cheeks. She'd made love to a woman. She barely felt the humidity, the heat left over from the passing storm as she let Harlequin out of his stable. She gasped when she climbed onto the saddle, not expecting how sore she would be, and decided she would take a leisurely pace back to town.
The ride gave her time to contemplate what had happened, what she'd become. She couldn't walk into town and tell everyone that she'd slept with Sarah Lamb. She was lucky enough that they'd accepted her as the sheriff, but if she revealed she was some kind of sexual deviant, the mayor would have her badge in his pocket before the cries of outrage stopped echoing. There was also the fact that she was an adulterer. Or would Sarah be the adulterer, and she was just the... mistress? She wasn't certain of the terms, but Sarah was a married woman. If nothing else, that would cast her as a sinner in most eyes.
It seemed wrong. She was happier than she'd ever been, but she couldn't share it with anyone close to her.
When she got to Roman, she saw that the town hadn't been as lucky as her homestead. The general store windows were broken, and the railing on the Valley Bar's balcony looked like someone had kicked out half the supports. Trash littered the streets, and a couple of people were in the process of cleaning up when she rode by. She dipped her chin in greeting, and everyone waved back with the shell-shocked distraction of people who'd come through something traumatic.
She tied Harlequin's reins to the hitching post outside the jail and headed inside, preparing herself for the worst. Clark and Joshua were still in their cells, but Joshua's face was peppered with bruises. He had an ice pack pressed against his temple and kept his eyes on the ground as Macy came inside. Henry was at his desk and shot to his feet when he saw her.
"Sheriff. Thank God. We were getting ready to send out a search party."
"Sorry," she said. "I got... tied up... taking Ms. Lamb back home last night. Storm caught me off-guard. What happened here?"
"Storm hit us head-on," Henry said. "Hailstones and there was talk of a tornado outside of town. So I figured the best thing to do was get everyone inside where it was safe. We put the prisoners in the closet, just in case one of the walls came down. Didn't want them getting hurt or making a break for it."
Macy nodded. "Good thinking."
"Yeah, that's what I thought. But they got into some fisticuffs in there. The one with the bloody hands darn near killed the one with the black and blue face 'fore we pulled 'em off each other. I think the first guy thought the second guy was too weak-willed. Thought he'd talk to you when you got back, tell you something about Daniel Lucas, maybe."
Macy walked over to the cells and looked at the two men. "You guys are both pretty stupid. You know that?" She looked at Clark. "What did you think Joshua was going to tell me when I got here?"
"He wants to tell you he's got a crush on ya. Wants to ask you to the big dance."
Macy smirked and focused on Joshua. "You okay? We got a doctor if you want him to come take a look at you."
Henry said, "Already offered. Said no way."
"The offer stands if you get to hurting too bad," Macy said. She scanned the room, the volunteers standing in every available space. "Other than that and the storm, how'd things go?"
"Fine," Henry said. "Quiet. No one bothered us."
Macy said, "Okay, everyone but the Taylor boys get outta here and help clean up the storm damage. Liam, Burton, I want you two to stick around for a little bit just in case we need the extra manpower."
"Oh, by the way," Henry said, "Newspaper boy wanted to talk to you."
Macy shook her head. "If he wants to ride all the way out to my place to deliver--"
"No, not Andy. The writer guy, George. He wanted to talk to you about Daniel Lucas and his gang when you got a minute."
Macy looked over the jail and then walked to the door to look at the damage to the town. "Might want to tell him he'll have to wait a bit."
Henry nodded. "That's what I was thinking, too.""Get me a broom. Liam, Burton, keep an eye on the prisoners. Let's go help clean up."
To Be Continued...
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