It was only third day in the newly made mining town on the outskirts of Colorado Springs. She kept shop at the new General Store for her father. He was at the river sifting for gold. Gold fever had struck the older man the day after they had set up shop and she hardly saw him since.
She had met only men so far in town but a young Indian boy had asked if he could help in exchange for food. She felt very alone and out of place in this rough town. She did her duty as a daughter and kept up the business while her wild eyed father spent all day at the river.
A tall miner came to the cashier table with a month rations in her arms. Nicole was surprised when the tall figure put all of the stuff on her counter and pushed back the Stetson to wipe a sweaty brow. She looked into startling blue eyes on a beautiful woman's face.
Nicole blushed and looked down replying quietly, "Hi."
"You are new in town, ain't ya?"
Shy green eyes met friendly blue, Nicole smiled and nodded.
"I gotta tell you this place is a God send to us. Otherwise we hafta wait for the stage coach and that is a pain in the rear."
"I am very glad we are of help."
"My Father and I."
"I… I don't remember seeing your father. I was here yesterday and sweet Indian boy helped me."
"Um, my Father has other interests…"
Blue eyes carefully studied the worried green and narrowed, "The Gold Fever?"
Nicole sighed and nodded tears slowly falling down her cheeks.
"Do ya need some more help in here?
"Um, we do but….we really put all our money into this building and our stock so we have none left to pay some one. Clear Eyes accepts food for work other wise we couldn't have afforded his help either.
The tall miner smiled and said, "I don't recall requiring any money. I just would like ta help you."
"I wouldn't want to interfere with your mining…"
"It won't. I like to go at dawn. No one is there and I can get a lot done before the greedy men show up. Also you're the only other woman in town and it would be nice to have a friend."
Nicole suddenly smiled and that made the tall woman smile back in pure reaction. "I'd like to have a friend to…and I could use some help…um…?"
"Hunter, Hunter McCillian."
"My name is Nicole. Nicole Bradley."
"It's a pleasure to meet ya, Nic."
Nicole blushed and said softly, "Only my late mother called me that."
"I…I'm so sorry…I…"
"No, its ok. I like to hear it again and you say it very prettily. It's really nice to have a friend here Hunter."
"Yeah, I think so too." Hunter gently shook hands with the small woman feeling that this may be the most important friendship in her life.
**** *** *** ***
Hunter had unloaded her wagon. She sat down on her comfortable easy chair that she had waited weeks for via mail order. She sipped her hot chocolate and then closed her eyes. Her mind drifted to her new friend. She really liked her, she was kind and intelligent. She had a hypnotic smile that drew her like a bee to honey.
Hunter's smile was dreamy she opened her eyes and stared into the fire. She then thought about her all alone in that store. She could see how overwhelmed she was she was out of place in this town and what Hunter really feared was that she would get hurt.
"Her father should watch over instead goin' crazy for gold. Don't he realize how damn precious she is?"
She shook her head and sipped some more of the sweet drink out of her cup. She smiled suddenly as she remembered the shocked look on the pretty face when she made her offer of help.
"She is so sweet and good. I'm so glad she said yes. I think she not only needs my help but my protection." She stretched and got out of the chair to start getting ready for bed, "That's one thing I can surely do, protect her."
*** *** *** ***
Nicole had just finished when her father came home. Again he was filthy as usual. He had been in the river all day and looked like he had fallen in it and then rolled in the mud.
"I just need to clean up, Dinner smells wonderful, Sweetheart." He said with a sweet smile as he went out to his loft to bath and change.
She smiled back, Her mother had taught her to be a good cook so she knew he would like what she prepared. He came down and sat at the table. Nicole served him then herself.
"How was the shop today, Pumpkin?"
"All right, Poppa. Um, a woman who is a part time miner wants to help me in the store."
"You know we have no money for help yet, after I strike it rich we will have more money then we know what to do with." Said her father as he enjoyed her stew.
"She says she'd didn't want any money. I'm the only woman in town and she thought I could use a friend…um…"
"That's nice…this is great! You will make a fine wife someday."
Nicole sighed as she ate her dinner and replied softly, "Thank you, Poppa."
*** *** *** *** ***
Nicole opened the store and was getting the stock ready by sorting the shelves when two men came sneaking into her shop. One of the men grabbed her from behind in a rough voice one said, "Where do you keep the money?"
Nicole's hand shakily pointed toward the brand new cash box. She was then pushed against a counter by one while the other got the cash box.
The man who held her started to pluck at her buttons saying in lecherous voice, "Now ain't you pretty?"
"Yes, she is. If you want to keep your privates in order I'd let go of her now!" Said a growling voice from the doorway.
Unheard by the robbers, Hunter came into the shop she leveled her gun right at the man's privates from the side. He turned slightly to glare at Hunter and replied, "Don't even think about it. I'm a crack shot and your privates are as easy to pluck as apples from the trees."
The man threw his hands up and stepped back at the same time his partner pulled his gun with his free hand. Hunter shot the gun out of the man's hand, "The next shot will be into the wrist. Now put down that damn box and get the hell out of my sight!"
The two men ran out and Nicole fainted. Hunter ran so she could catch her her gun dropping onto the floor. She gently put her into a chair and rubbed her cheeks tenderly.
Slowly green eyes opened, "Steady Nic, breathe a bit, that's a good girl."
The green eyes filled with tears and she leaned her head against Hunter's shoulder as she cried, "Thank you…I would have…Thank you so much…"
Hunter pulled her close hugging her tight, "Shh, your ok. It will be ok."
"I..if it wasn't for you I would have…"
"I know, they are failed miners who rob people to make a living. Real creeps. We don't even got a sheriff to go after the bastards! This is why I was so worried about you…"
"I could have been killed or raped!"
"Shh, yes I know, but you weren't. You're ok. I think you should wait till I can get her before you open up from now on. I don't want anything like this happening again. I think we both want a nice Christmas."
"Hunter, how can I ever thank you enough…"
"You don't owe me anything. Really Nic, I want to help you. I need to protect you…I'm really not sure why my self but…I just need to…"
"I'm not sure why I just care about you deeply I did from the first time I saw you."
"You did? But I'm just a boring…"
"No you're not. You're wonderful."
Nicole's tears were still falling down her cheeks she replied slowly, "I think I feel that too. Since I first met you I felt a…I don't know connection. I'm so glad you are here I don't know what I would have done if you weren't in this town. I would have been all alone."
Hunter gently wiped her tears and said sweetly, "You are too special to be alone. I am glad I'm here too." She smiled slightly and gently caressed her friends cheek.
"I guess we should start setting up for the day."
"Are you sure your up to it? You can lie down in the back and I'll set up for you."
"No I'm ok, I'd like us to do it together."
Hunter's smile widened and she gently took both her hands hand pulled her out of the chair. "That sounds like a deal. Lets get to work."
Nicole chuckled and said, "Yes that a deal."
*** *** *** ***
Christmas Eve was very busy in the store. Nicole, her father, Hunter and Clear Eyes were very busy serving customers. They were buying supplies for Christmas and last minute presents for their friends and family.
After the store closed Nicole's father went to Hunter and said with sad contrite eyes, "I wanted to thank you Hunter, I am so grateful you were here to protect my little girl. I am such an idiot! I wish…"
"Sir, your human, it's very easy to get caught up in gold fever. Anyone could…"
"Yeah, I did, when I first came out here I got snapped out of it though…"
"I went berserk when someone tried to jump my claim. I almost strangled him…"
Nicole who had been finishing the cash count came up on the conversation and gasped. "No…you're so gentle…" She objected.
Hunter's gentle blue eyes met shocked green eyes, "Normally I am just that. I would never willingly hurt anyone except to protect an innocent but I was deep in gold lust. It changed my whole personality. All I knew was he was trying to steal from me. I stopped myself just before I killed him. He had lost consciousness and I was lucky he recovered. Once I realized what gold had almost driven me to I was determined never to let it happen again."
The older man nodded, "Yes, when Nicole told me I wanted to kick myself in the butt. My little kitten would have been killed if it weren't for you. I am so grateful. Would you please come over tonight to celebrate Christmas Eve with us?"
Hunter smiled and nodded, "My pleasure, Sir."
Nicole's face lit up she was so happy with her Father's request. "It is the best Christmas present you could give us, Hunter."
Hunter blushed and said, "It is like I said it is a really pleasure."
*** *** *** ***
Hunter was leaning back in her chair. She had full stomach thanks to Nicole's wonderful cooking. Nicole, her father and Clear eyes all gave her presents which she exchanged for the ones she brought them. She had spent a happy enjoyable evening with her new friends. Now she sighed sadly she was all alone in her cabin. For the first time in her life she was lonely. More then lonely she missed Nic.
She shook her head and took a sip of the hot chocolate beside her as she thought of her dearest new friend. She had never really had such a close friend like this before. Like she had explained to the petite blonde she really felt compelled to be with her and now she feared that she was being pathetic that she missed her so much.
I just left her, why do I feel so sad? That just doesn't make any sense. I just had a wonderful joyful time with her. I left with a hug from her and invitation to come back tomorrow so why am I feeling so devastated?
She signed and got up. She crossed the room to her hand made book shelves and took her new book by Charles Dickens, "The Christmas Carol." Hunter was half way through the first chapter when she leaned back again and sighed. She closed her eyes again thinking of Nicole.
All I can think of is I want to share this with Nic. I wish she was here with me. She shook her head disgusted with herself. She closed her book angry at herself and put it on the table beside her. She stared into the fire with in her minds eye she saw the beautiful green eyes, soft blonde hair, and adorable cute little nose. She felt a deep need well up inside her and felt she should stop this train of thought right then but her heart wouldn't let her. It just dragged her deeper into her own imagination.
She saw something in her heart that she would have never have dreamed of doing. She saw herself kissing Nic tenderly. She kissed her way down the soft neck nibbling the tender earlobe. She now was tasting every inch she could reach. She was ripped out of her erotic thoughts by a knocking on the door. Her heart pounding, she shook her head trying to get herself pulled together.
She went to the door and was stunned to find Nicole standing there. "Nic!" She was shocked to see her and she was overjoyed to see her. "What are you doing here so late? You could have been attacked and I …" Hunter pulled her into the cabin and into her arms.
Nicole cuddled into the warm hug, she hugged her back just as tight. She felt more secure in them then she did with her father.
"I couldn't sleep so I asked Poppa to take me here. He walked me to the door and left when he heard you unlock it."
Hunter cradled Nicole's face with her hand and said, "I couldn't relax…I tried to read and couldn't all I could is think of you." She gently led her friend in front of the fireplace and pulled her onto her lap as she sat on her big chair. "I just couldn't settle I missed you so…"
Nicole nodded and cuddled closer, "I missed you too."
Hunter was suddenly overcome with a nod but she held back. She couldn't resist gently stroking her friend's face, "Thank you for coming it's the best Christmas present you could have given to me."
"I wanted…needed to see you too." Nicole leaned into the hand caressing her cheek her eyes met Hunter's, "I just wanted to be with you like this."
"Just like this?"
"No..I wish…I wish we had some mistletoe."
Hunter's eyebrows shot up and she smiled lovingly, "You do huh?"
"Yes, it would make it easier."
Hunter other hand came up to cradle my friend's face and said so softly that if Nicole wasn't close she wouldn't have heard, "You don't need it. Merry Christmas." She kissed the woman of her dreams tenderly as she felt her love respond she deepened the kiss. When the passion was spent they pulled back slightly looking deeply into the loving green eyes.
"I love you Nicole, deeply and passionately."
"I love you too, I felt it from the beginning. I…"
"Merry Christmas my love," Hunter kissed Nicole deeply.
Hunter pulled back and kissed Nicole's nose. Nicole rubbed her nose against Hunter's and said softly. "Merry Christmas."
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