by LJ Maas
Dev looked around the streets of the usually bustling town, now suspiciously empty. She searched for signs of Karsten and his men, even as she appeared not to be. Dev noticed the number of shadows in the saloon and thanked the Spirits. Men milling about the saloon when their leader was about to enter into a showdown was a sure sign that once he was dead, they'd be hopelessly lost.
Dev pulled the wagon in front of Montgomery's Cattleman's Association office just as they had been instructed.
"Sarah, before we start this, there's something I want you to know," Dev started.
"No!" Sarah covered the rider's lips with her fingers. The young woman knew what the rider was going to say. She would try to voice the words that hadn't been spoken between them yet. They hadn't actually told one another that they were in love, but Sarah simply knew that's what the beautiful woman was about to say.
"Don't say it. I don't want you thinking you've said your piece and now you can be noble and go and die on me. I'd rather it be your reason for coming back to me."
The rider smiled at Sarah's logic and squeezed the young woman's hand, then jumped from the wagon and looked around before moving to the other side. She left the wooden wheel brake off, and instead of wrapping the horses reins around the hook on the wagon, she subtly slid them toward Sarah before she jumped from the wagon.
John Montgomery sauntered from his office as if he had the whole situation under control. The man had no idea he would probably die today, that is if Dev lived long enough to finish the job.
"I believe you have something for me," he looked expectantly at Sarah, taking a step or two toward the woman in the wagon.
"Right here," Dev waved the papers.
Montgomery's face fell a little at that. He wanted to have the young woman admit defeat; show her subservience to him by handing him the papers herself. Dev knew that kind of power game too well. She not only had the papers, but she made him walk to her to get them. Once Montgomery stood before the tall rider, he looked up at Sarah.
"Too bad you have such a perverted appetite, Sarah. You and I would have made a good team," he leered at her.
"John Montgomery, if we were the last two people on earth…well," she smiled sweetly, "we'd be the last two people on earth."
Montgomery was starting to lose his good humor and reached for the papers, Devlin quickly pulling them out of reach.
"First the girl," she said in a low voice.
Montgomery's smile was too broad at that suggestion. Dev knew for certain then that they weren't meant to leave the town. Montgomery yelled down the street and the door to the café opened up. Karsten came out leading Hannah. The girl was crying, but looked unhurt. When she saw Dev she tried to run to her, but the gunman stopped the girl. Dev began walking down the middle of the street, slowly, taking in every detail she could. She stopped about twenty feet from the gunman.
"Long time, Dev," he grinned.
"Not long enough," the rider hissed.
Dev lowered herself to one knee. "Hannah, come here." She said warmly, holding her arms out to the young girl.
Hannah took off at a run and leapt into strong arms that swept her up in a crushing embrace. Being in familiar arms started the girl crying once again. Dev kissed the girl and whispered to her, finally she turned her back on the gunman.
There were few in the world she would feel safe pulling this maneuver, but the rider knew that Karsten wanted to beat her. Shooting her in the back wouldn't suit his purpose, just like shooting her and beating her hadn't been enough a couple years ago. That's why he encouraged the men to rape her. That's why he was the first in line. He didn't just want to win; he wanted you to see it coming…to humiliate you as much as possible.
So, Dev walked toward Sarah and Montgomery with Hannah in her arms. The rider stopped halfway there. If Sarah was going to have a chance at running, should Devlin lose, Montgomery needed to be farther away from the wagon.
"Sarah, move the wagon to the other side of the street." Dev shouted and Sarah immediately complied, the wagon groaning as the wheels turned sharply.
"Wait! She doesn't leave until I get the papers." Montgomery yelled.
"Then come and get 'em," Dev held the papers up in the air.
Montgomery seemed torn, but wanted the land more than the woman. He began to walk toward Dev. The rider placed Hannah on the ground and whispered to the small girl. Hannah took off toward her mother as fast as her six-year-old legs could carry her. Sarah jumped from the wagon and hugged the girl into a tight embrace.
Montgomery didn't seem to like the idea that his collateral was getting away, or the fact that now he had to walk up to the rider to get his deeds. He developed a more confident air when he realized Dale Karsten was watching his back.
What Montgomery didn't realize is that paid guns usually have their own agendas and play by their own rules. Karsten didn't give a damn what Montgomery's feud was with the woman or Brown. He only knew he wanted to take Devlin down for the last time, and when he was done with that, he'd think about her little girlfriend.
As Montgomery drew a hand forward to reach for the papers Dev held out, the rider grabbed his wrist, pulling it up behind his back. Then, Dev opened the deed to show him the blank white paper inside.
"You bitch!" Montgomery cried out.
Dev spun the man and pulled back her arm for one of the most satisfying, nose-breaking punches she'd thrown in a very long while. She then held the man up as she kneed him in the groin, sending his jewels right into his throat. With little effort, she pushed the man away from her into the dirt. Then she turned to face Karsten. On her way around, she glanced briefly at Sarah holding Hannah; it would be the last thought she could spare the other half of her heart until this last bit of business was over.
Sarah watched as Dev turned to face the gunman. The young woman heard a whisper and turned as Ellen quietly called to her from the front door of the brothel. Sarah looked back at the woman she loved, suddenly refusing to take a chance on losing her. She knew Dev and Karsten were in a place where only they existed. If she could get set now, no one would notice her, they certainly wouldn't be expecting it.
Sarah whispered softly to her daughter and pointed to Ellen. Hannah nodded, smiling at her old friend. When Sarah released her daughter the girl ran for the open door. Ellen waited for Sarah to follow, but swallowed hard, watching as her small friend carefully and silently slid a Winchester rifle from under the seat of the wagon.
From where Sarah stood she could see over Dev's left shoulder, directly into the face of the gunfighter. She waited and watched, just as silent as the two in the middle of the street, looking indifferently into the man's face, imagining in her mind's eye what Devlin's face looked like now. She suspected it was as impassive as ever, the eyes narrowing so you could scarcely tell her irises were made up of two different shades of blue.
Sarah watched as the gunfighter stared at the rider, his eyes unblinking, and a small bead of sweat trickling down from his temple. That's when Sarah saw it. It was just as Dev had described it to her. She saw the thought in the gunman's eye.
By the time Karsten's brain ordered his hand to draw his weapon, Sarah had opened her mouth to scream out a warning to Devlin. The rider was a half step on both of them, the dark-haired woman already reaching for both her guns.
The last sensation the gunman felt, aside from the pain, was a metallic dryness in his mouth, and in a fraction of a heartbeat, he knew it was fear he tasted, the fear of his own death. He had barely cleared his holster when Devlin's thumbs were cocking back the hammers of each pistol. He watched in horror as the woman's eyes turned pale, losing their color completely. He realized too late that he was looking into the face of death.
Sarah's body jerked at the deafening sounds of the explosions from Dev's guns. The rider emptied her pistols into the man. Karsten hit his knees, ending up face down in the dirt, without firing a shot.
Dev walked slowly over to the man, who was still attempting to breathe his last.
"You got faster," he gasped.
"Nope, you got slower," Dev replied without feeling.
"I'll see you in hell, Devlin Brown." The man's heart finally stopped beating.
"There's every possibility," Dev answered without inflection.
Dev turned at the sound behind her, her hand going to her holster. She silently cursed herself. In her rage at Karsten she broke the first rule of staying alive. She emptied both guns into the man.
Looking up she watched as John Montgomery aimed a Derringer at her head. Of course the rider thought it odd, the things you think about right before you die. Hell! Thirty-five years I made it, only to get my brains blown out by a fancy dude with a pea-shooter.
The unexpected crack even made Dev flinch. The expression on Montgomery's face was one of incomprehension. He looked at Dev, then down at his shirt, a red stain spreading across his chest. When he fell to one knee, Dev saw behind the man. There, in the middle of the dirt road, Sarah still aimed the Winchester at the wounded man.
Montgomery turned his head and then looked back at Devlin again, the Derringer finally falling from his hand.
"I never thought she had it in her," The dying man mused.
"That was your second mistake." Dev answered.
"What was my first mistake?" he asked, dropping fully on the ground.
Devlin leaned over the man and whispered, "Fucking with her in the first place!"
Like all the other men Dev had used this line on, the sarcasm was lost on them. They were too dead to care.
The thunder rumbled, the lightening flickering from a long way off yet.
"Sarah?" Dev said gently.
The young woman had lowered the rifle, but she still stared at the body of the man she'd just killed.
"I had to," was all she said.
"I know, honey…I know," Dev answered, pulling the gun from Sarah's grasp, and holding her arm around the young woman.
Dev pulled Sarah away from the carnage before them, walking down the street.
"Where's Hannah?" Dev said with concern.
"She's okay, she's with Ellen." Sarah answered, "You were right, Dev…it does change everything."
"I'm sorry, baby," Dev set the rifle in the wagon, but continued walking with her arm around Sarah. By the time Hank was riding into town, the two women had walked nearly to the edge of town, Sarah was finally becoming herself again.
"Timing, Hank…we got to work on that timing of yours." Dev smiled up at her friend. "I think you'll find most of them in the saloon. Why don't you encourage them to move on.
They were finally alone, and Devlin wrapped both arms tightly around Sarah. Pulling back slightly, the two women looked at one another.
"Sarah," Dev began, both hands holding the young woman's face, "do you know…do you have any idea what you mean to me?"
Sarah looked away as tears threatened. "Dev, I was…I was so lonely for so long before I met you. I feel as if I've been waiting for you to come into my life for so long."
"I know," the rider whispered. In answer to Sarah's unspoken question, Dev went on.
"The tumbleweed notes." The rider finished.
Sarah hung her head and didn't know whether to be elated or humiliated.
"It's just that I was so lonely. I wanted someone to talk to, to share with…and there was no one."
Dev smiled at the woman that held her heart and reached into her vest jacket, pulling out a small bundle of paper. They were the notes Sarah had written and tied to the tumbleweeds in the black of the night.
"You're wrong, Sarah, about there being no one. There was me…there was always me." Then Dev wrapped her arms around the smaller woman.
The thunder rumbled low and long and Sarah felt the vibration of it deep within her chest. Then, the rain began to fall. The air was humid and still as the tiny droplets of precipitation fell onto their skin, soaking into their clothing. Time had slowed for the two women as they let themselves go to the incredible sensations of their bodies being held together by some unseen force.
Devlin pulled the soft brown hat off her head, the raven mane cascading onto her shoulders, and down her back. She leaned her head back and closed her eyes, almost sensually, to the raindrops, even as the arm around Sarah's shoulder held the smaller woman's body tightly to her own.
For the first time in her life, Devlin felt at peace, as if she were about to do what had been fated for her all along. It felt so right…this felt so right…Sarah felt so right. The rider felt as if her body had been waiting a thousand years for this one kiss, this one perfect kiss…to complete her, to heal the lonely ache in her soul.
Sarah felt as if her whole world had exploded into a million minuscule pieces and were rearranging themselves, gently falling into place again. The feelings of hopelessness and longing had disappeared, to be replaced by a swirl of emotions that told her this was where she was supposed to be, here in the strong and loving embrace of this woman…the other half of her soul…the dark warrior her heart had waited on for centuries.
Sarah felt her own arms tighten around the rider's waist.
Devlin looked down into Sarah's emerald eyes as she felt the woman's hands press into the small of her back, pulling her taller form even closer to the young woman. Dev let her eyes close, suppressing a moan at the pleasurable sensation of Sarah's body against her own.
Once again Devlin opened her eyes to look into the face of the angel that held her heart. Neither woman took any notice of the outside world around them. They held one another tightly as their gaze locked. Devlin reached one hand up to tenderly stroke Sarah's cheek with the back of her fingers.
"So, beautiful," Devlin whispered.
Sarah turned her face and softly kissed the fingers that lingered on her cheek, tasting the saltiness of the rider's skin, mesmerized by the gentleness of the strong woman's touch. Sarah felt tears of joy fill her eyes, not knowing whether they spilled from her eyes or if it was the rain that ran in tiny drops down her cheeks.
The smaller woman slid the hands that were pressed against Devlin's soaked back, under the back of the rider's vest. Feeling the heat of the dark-haired woman's skin through her shirt, Sarah grabbed a handful of the cloth in each hand and her body trembled at the powerful response her action had on the rider.
Devlin felt Sarah's hands slip under her vest and the muscles in her lower belly clenched at the innocent intimacy. She wrapped both arms around the smaller woman, one hand reaching out to slip around Sarah's neck, Dev's fingers entwining in soft honey-colored locks. She slowly pulled the young woman's face closer.
The Great Spirit was kind in stilling time for the two women. Only moments had passed in the outside world around them, but for the two lovers, this instant could not be intercepted by the hands of time. They gazed at one another, conveying all that they held in their hearts, through their eyes.
Finally, Devlin leaned in to complete her destiny.
Before their lips ever touched, Dev could feel the warm breath of a sigh escape Sarah's lips. She could feel the sweetness before their tongues ever intertwined. Savoring every precious heartbeat of anticipation, Devlin leaned in just a little closer…
Sarah held her breath as Devlin's fingers tenderly tilted her chin upward. The penetrating blue gaze burned into Sarah's soul, searching the depths of her heart and branding her forever. Before their lips had even touched Sarah knew this dark warrior owned her body and soul.
As Dev leaned down, Sarah raised herself slightly, until each woman had breached the distance between her heart's desire. In an instant, as their lips pressed ever so gently together, each woman knew that this was the culmination of something extraordinary.
To Devlin time had no longer slowed, it had stopped altogether. The rider felt the soft, sensual lips of her lover on her own. And, just when Dev felt that this was as close to perfection as she would ever be, she felt Sarah respond to the kiss, the young woman's silken lips moving against Devlin's own. Dev was no stranger to the pleasures of a woman, but she had never tasted anything as sweet and wonderful as the mouth that now captured her own. The rider's body forfeited itself completely to the physical pleasure of the moment. She felt a delicious pressure on her back as Sarah slid her hands higher up her back, urging her closer.
The tip of Dev's tongue pressed itself lightly against Sarah's bottom lip, desiring a more intimate contact with her lover. The young woman's lips didn't have to be asked twice, and they quickly parted to allow the rider's tongue entry.
The taste of her lover filled her mouth and Sarah almost swooned at the pleasure of it. She moaned into Devlin's mouth as the gentle kiss quickly turned passionate; the two women's tongues accepting then giving pleasure to one another.
Devlin wrapped both her hands within the amber locks. Moving her feet apart to steady her stance, she pressed against Sarah's mouth. When the young woman moaned her pleasure into the kiss, Dev felt a liquid rush of
fire between her legs. She pulled away so they could both take a much-needed breath, then she took the young woman's mouth again, a low growl captured within Sarah's kiss.
Sarah felt the low rumble of a growl deep inside the rider's chest. It wasn't the growl of intimidation the rider had used at Ellen's when Sarah had been threatened. The sound that Sarah heard now was a growl of pure and unadulterated lust and passion. It fluttered out from the woman's chest and Sarah felt it against her breasts, the vibration causing a tingling sensation on the young woman's skin.
Devlin pulled back and held Sarah's face in her callused hands, moving her kisses over her cheeks and along her jawline, until she reached the young woman's ear.
"I love you, Sarah," the tall rider whispered softly.
Pulling back to look into her lover's eyes, Devlin brushed the tears and the raindrops from Sarah's cheeks, her own tears mixing with the moisture from the sky and streaming down her tanned face.
"Oh, Dev…I feel like I've waited a lifetime to hear those words," Sarah whispered back. "I do love you, Devlin Brown…with all that I am, I love you."
Strong arms were wrapped around Sarah's body as the smaller one nuzzled the rider's wet neck. Devlin kissed the top of the young woman's head and held her close. Unwilling to end their embrace, the two women stood in the middle of the dirt road as the thunder continued it's low rumblings, the rain, dropping steadily from the sky now, fell unheeded around them.
Devlin divulged the secrets of her wild warrior's heart into that one kiss, a wild heart tamed solely by the love and compassion of a small slip of a girl with a pride and a bearing that no queen could ever compare to. In the end, it hadn't been a gun that brought the fierce rider down but instead, a pair of viridian eyes and a stubborn heart as strong as Devlin's own.