The characters in the story are a product of my own imagination and hopefully have no resemblance to any living persons. But if it does it is entirely coincidental. Some of the places mentioned are either fictitious and or adapted to suit the plot of the story.
Archiving : This work is copy written and should not be posted anywhere else without the writer's expressed permission.
As always, I want to thank my betas rleef and Steph for straightening out this piece.
Feedback: Constructive criticisms is greatly appreciated, so feel free to drop a line or two at email@example.com or sent me a friend request on Facebook .
The hands running down her body were velvety soft, making Starr's body heat up as blood coursed to her center. Not wanting to spoil the erotic images going through her mind, she delayed opening her eyes. She must be in … Where was she again? The next moment her eyes jerked opening. The pitch black eyes looking down at her made her jerk the sheet up to her chin.
Who … what …? Slowly looking away from the hypnotic black gaze, she allowed her eyes to take in her surroundings. The room was huge and lavishly decorated with high ceilings, large windows and marble tiles. This could not be right. Where the hell was she? Her eyes slowly moved from the glittering tiles to the person sitting up in the bed next to her. She blinked at the sight. It was criminal for anyone to be so good-looking. The woman was dark, obviously from Spanish descent. The dark eyes that looked at her held a genuinely concerned look.
“Are you okay?” The woman's voice was husky and just as exotic as the rest of her. Who is she and what the hell was she doing touching her like that?
“Who are you and what are you doing in my bed?” Starr had to try hard to keep her anxiety from seeping through in the tone.
The woman got of the bed and Starr quickly looked away. She was stark naked. Starr heard the rustling of clothing and turned back to the woman. She pulled on black Oriental-looking robe, which accentuated the light tan of her skin. She slowly walked back to the bed and sat on the edge of the bed. Startled, Starr quickly moved over to allow for space between them.
“You don't remember anything? Nothing at all? Not even us?” The beautiful face registered shock when she saw the honest bewildered look in Starr's eyes.
“Who are you?”
A sad look crossed the woman's face and she slowly lowered her face in her hands, her black hair veiling her face. Not knowing what to expect next, Starr scooted farther away from the woman. Her movement jerked the woman back to reality and she turned to look at her.
“I'm the person who loves you with her whole heart and soul.” The brown eyes looking back at her were soft, but it still contained the sadness of earlier. “And you are the love of my life.”
Getting of the bed, Starr noticed that she too was naked and grabbed the sheet to cover herself. “Where are my clothes? I need to get out of here.”
“And go where, my love. You are home.” The woman walked around the bed towards her, but Starr held up a hand.
“Don't come any closer, please.” Her blue eyes were boring into the woman's dark eyes. The woman stopped abruptly. They were both the same height. “Where are my guns?”
“You remember your guns, but not me.” The dark eyes sharpened a fraction. “It is not safe for you to be out of bed and in particularly not in the state you are in, my love.”
“Don't call me that.”
“Why not? Don't you love me?”
“You … you … you're a woman. It's not right.”
The woman laughed softly and Starr felt her body responding to the darkly husky sound.
“All the people who truly care us know that we are lovers.”
“Well, I don't and I would appreciate it if you would not call me that again.”
The dark eyes stared at her for a long while before the dark head nodded.
“I will, but on one condition.”
“Which is what?”
Starr quickly took a few steps backwards when the beautiful woman crossed the distance between them. She was so close that Starr could smell her skin. She smelt of lavender and honeysuckle. For the third time in the space of twenty minutes, Starr felt her body respond to the woman. What was wrong with her? She can't ever remember being attracted to a woman, but her body knows this woman. It was evident in the way it responded to her nearness, her smell, and even the boldly possessive way the woman was looking at her. There must've been something between them. She knows that deep down even though she can't remember the woman.
“You stay here and don't try to leave the house.”
“What is your name? Maybe it might trigger my memory?” She saw a flicker of hope cross the woman's eyes, before they became expressionless again.
“Angelica Alida Morientes.”
Starr rolled the name around in her head, but nothing popped up. She shrugged and gave the woman a blank look. The look of hurt that crossed the woman's features, was so intense, Starr had to look away quickly. A strange need to say something filled her.
“My body recognizes you, even though my mind doesn't.” Once again the look of hope was on Angelica face. “What happened to put me in this state?”
Angelica gestured towards the bed.
“First I need to send a vaquero for Dr. Reyes and then, I promise, to tell you everything.” With a final concerned look at her, Angelica left the room.
The thick oak door closed between them and Angel doubled over and a sob escaped her lips. Giving in to the fear and pain in her heart, she allowed the tears to roll down her cheeks.
When the workers brought her Starr‘s bloodied body from the desert, she had felt her heart stopping. There was so much blood that even Dr. Reyes had turned pale when he first saw her. She had stayed positive that one day her gringa would open her eyes and look at her with those adoring blue eyes. Every night she had slept next to her, talking to her, willing her to wake up. Finally today she did, but it was only to reject her touch and the blue eyes didn't even showed any recognition when they looked at her.
Another sob tore from her body and she laid her head on her arms. That was how her housekeeper, Luisa, found her a few minutes later. Worried, the ample-bosomed Mexican woman, rushed over to gather Angelica in her arms. Feeling the familiar arms wrapping around her, Angel held on to Luisa and cried.
“What has upset you so, my child?”
Angelica's parents often traveled between their home and Madrid. She had been left in the charge of Luisa since she was a baby. The Mexican woman had raised her and even when her parents were back in the country, she preferred to be near Luisa. A gentle finger under her chin, forced Angel to meet the soft brown eyes of the Mexican woman.
“She doesn't remember anything. She doesn't remember me, Luisa. Not our love – nothing.”
“Hush, querida. We will get Dr. Reyes and then we will take things from there. Starr loves you too much not to want to remember you. We should bear in mind that she had fallen from Diablo while at a very high speed.” Gently urging her to her feet, Luisa led her towards the kitchen. “Let me make you a nice cup of tea. You will feel better afterwards. In the meantime I will send Carlos for Dr. Reyes.”
Alone in the bedroom, Starr scanned the room for her clothes. With the sheet trailing behind her, she walked over to the closet in the corner. When she opened the doors, she was overwhelmed by the scent of lavender and honeysuckle. No doubt whose closet this was. She groaned softly when a deep shiver ran down her back.
Turning away from the closet, she spotted another one in the opposite corner. She opened it and gaped. No matter what she had told the woman about her body remembering her, nothing prepared her for what she was looking at right now. Her two ivory-holstered Colts hung on the inside of the closet, together with her wide-brim Stetson. Another surprise was the black shirts hanging in the closet. A few Levi jeans were neatly stacked on the shelf. She heard a sound and turned quickly. Angelica stood in the doorway.
“I see you've found your clothes.”
Angel walked over to her and Starr couldn't help but notice the fluid way she moved—hips swaying with every step. “You had a nasty fall and I think it's still too early for you to be walking around.”
She came to stand very close to Starr and the gunslinger felt her pulse quicken. Her blue gaze gave away nothing though, more than she can say for the Angelica. Her red-rimmed eyes showed that she must've cried after leaving the room half an hour ago.
“You were crying? Why?” Stupid question, but she really wanted to know.
Angelica let out an unladylike snort as she walked over to the water pitcher.
“Wouldn't you do the same if your lover just woke up one day without any memory of you or your time together?” She splashed water on her face and reached for a crisp white towel.
Starr walked over to the bed and sat down. “Where am I?”
“Casa Morientes, which is ‘home' to you.” Angelica answered without looking at her.
“Does it belong to you?” she asked softly.
“My parents left it to me when they died in a stage coach accident ten years ago.” Angelica walked over to the bed. “It has been our home for the past five years.”
Starr gaped. “Five years. We've been together for that long?”
“Yes. We met five years ago not very far from here.”
A knock at the door caused them to turned towards the door. A grey-haired distinguished man was standing in the doorway. His black bag gave him away immediately. Dr. Reyes has arrived.
“Funny, how I'm called to come check on you, because you are usually the one calling me to stitch up another victim of your quick temper and even quicker trigger fingers.”
Dr. Reyes placed his bag on the bed and his twinkling dark eyes quickly scanned Starr's body where she stood a few feet away from the bed. “You still look a bit unsteady on your feet. I suggest you stay in bed a few days longer.” He walked over to where she stood and gently pulled her to the bed. “I hear you've forgotten almost five years of your life. Last I checked on you, I suspected you suffered from a mild concussion, but I didn't reckon with memory loss.” He opened his bag and rummaged inside. “Now let's see what I might have missed the first time round.”
Starr longingly eyed the steaming bathwater. Oh, how she craved to soak her gritty body in the bath until the cobwebs in her mind melted away. But as eager as she was to take off her clothes and immerse herself in the liquid temptation, she was just as leery of the gorgeous woman standing next to it. Involuntarily, her body began to hum as her cool blue eyes trailed over the woman.
Angel was dressed in a pair of black trousers that hugged her long legs beautifully and a black cotton shirt that spun tight over voluptuous breasts. The first two buttons of the shirt was undone, giving her a tantalizing view of the woman's cleavage. Starr really wanted to take the bath, but first she had to get rid of this tempting siren.
“Angel, querida , you always called me Angel.”
Her eyes narrowed at the sultry tone of the brunette. The woman was persistent. “Why are you doing this?” Starr knew her question sounded lame, but there was nothing else she could think of. It was obvious that the woman had her confused with someone else. She has never had any romantic feelings towards a woman before. Never, ever…
Her eyes widened in trepidation as the woman stepped closer. Standing so close to her, Starr could smell the woman's…Angel's spicy perfume and groaned inwardly when she felt an unexpected rush of wetness between her legs. Oh, my treacherous body…
“Because, mi amore , we always took our baths together.” Angel's amber eyes gleamed with blatant hunger. “You are insatiable, you know, and you would take me over and over in the bath. You would make me scream and scream until my voice is hoarse and I can't speak for hours afterwards.”
At that very moment Starr was convinced that the Rio Grande ran between her legs. The woman leaned forward, a sable eyebrow rose slowly as she smiled slyly.
“I can smell you, my love.” A slight pout formed on her lips. “You drive me crazy too.” Angel said with a deep growl that made Starr whole body shiver. “I know how to take care of you. Be mine again tonight, my gringa , please.”
Starr fell into the hypnotic eyes of Angel as they blazed with raw desire. She blinked quickly and snapped out of the trance. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! What was happening to her? This unbelievably gorgeous woman wanted to ravish her and she seemed to have done so many times in the past. Her eyes fell on the woman's cleavage and she found her mouth water at the sight. She quickly averted her eyes and heard a soft, husky chuckle coming. She felt herself blush at being caught ogling Angel's breasts.
“No need to feel embarrassed, Blue Eyes.” She cupped her breasts and lifted them gently, making Starr want to rub her thighs together to ease the throbbing between her legs. The amber eyes devoured her as they raked over her flustered face. “They have missed you just as much as you must be missing them. In five years you have never let a day go by without kissing them.” She moaned softly. “I think you like them more than you do any other part of my body.”
Starr threw a quick glance at the two globes in questions and thought that they were indeed beautiful and succulent…What a minute…What was she doing? She raised a shaky hand to her forehead. She needed to get out of here and far away from this woman. She spun on her heel and exited the small bathing room. As she walked past the bed, she spotted her gun belt and grabbed it in stride.
“Starr, where are you going? Starr…”
Starr rushed out of the room, down an elaborate staircase and came to stop before the front door. She slowly turned around. Her stunned eyes swept over the hall. Holy cow, the place was unbelievable. Rich, brownstone floor tiles spread across the large hall, snaking into an even bigger room on the right. Curious, she slowly walked towards the room and gasped. What the…She can't remember ever seeing such opulence in her life. The room is richly decorated and some of the items she was sure was not even available on the continent. They were definitely imported from Spain. The walls were decorated with expensive-looking paintings and artifacts. She heard a soft footfall behind her and from the response of her body, she knew who it was.
“You have a lovely home,” she murmured, still shell-shocked by the elaborate display of wealth.
“ We have a lovely home.” Angel came to stand next to her and Starr was surprised to find that they were more or less the same height. With her six-foot frame, she had always stood a few inches taller than most women and men. To find a woman who could look her square in the eyes was uncommon for her. Instantaneously her body began to absorb the woman's nearness and she felt her body heat crank up a notch.
“I need to…” She left the sentence unfinished as she turned to leave. A surprisingly strong hand pulled her back and she stumbled back against the warm body of Angel. Angel swung around, her eyes clashing with fiery amber eyes.
“I have to tell you something. I think it's better you know now rather than later.” Angel's eyes cooled fractionally. “I DO not and NEVER will share you with anyone. You are mine, gringa , and I want you to remember that.”
Starr looked at the woman and couldn't help but sneer at the gall of the woman.
“Who are you to talk to me like that?”
The brunette's face was pulled in a cold mask as she studied her. “I'm the woman who loves you with all my heart and who will not take the chance of losing you, memory loss or not.”
Stunned by the arrogance of the other woman, Starr just stared at her. She could see in the woman's eyes that she meant what she'd said. Not knowing what to say, she spun on her heels and left the house.
The minute she stepped outside, the many smiling faces greeting her overwhelmed her.
“That was a long siesta ,” a tall skinny man said around a thin cigarillo. His face was hidden by a large sombrero, but Starr couldn't help but feel a sense of familiarity.
She lifted her Stetson to have a better look at the man. He had twin silver pistols fastened around narrow hips and from the way he carried them, it was evident that he knew how to use them.
“Yes, I was afraid of getting bedsores.”
The men laughed and Starr smiled faintly. These men were familiar to her, just like Angelica. She knew them, but she just couldn't remember them.
“Dr. Reyes told us that you have forgotten everything,” said the man with the sombrero. “It is very sad news, amiga . You have made many memories here. Senora Angel has had her hands full to keep you entertained.” The man whistled under his breath, making the others chuckle. “You two were destined to be together…if it had not happened in this world, it was sure to happen in the next.”
Starr frowned at that. Even the men knew of their relationship and from their reactions, it didn't seem to bother them at all. She stepped closer to the man with the sombrero. He lifted his head and piercing dark eyes stared back at her.
“I have forgotten everything?”
The tall man nodded and pushed his sombrero back. Starr stared at the man's handsome face. He looked so familiar, but the cobwebs in her mind still shrouded his identity in mystery. The man grinned at her.
“My name's Eduardo. You saved me from a lynch mob seven years ago. A corrupt sheriff framed me for a stagecoach robbery to take the heat off his illegal dealings. You broke me out of jail.”
Starr smiled as she shook her head. “I can't imagine myself breaking someone out of jail. Why did I do it?”
Eduardo shrugged. “I was innocent and besides, everyone was scared of you.”
“You are mighty fast with those six shooters. You could shoot a man in the main street of Mellow Valley and no one would've done anything to stop you. You walked into the jailhouse in broad daylight, pushed passed the sheriff, took the key, and let me out. You actually led me out of prison in broad daylight.”
The men chuckled as she scratched her head. “Are you sure that was me? There are several female gunslingers in the West.”
“I'm dead sure. We have ridden together ever since until we came to Casa Morientes.”
Eduardo turned to the hands and in rapid Spanish ordered them all back to work. Once the men had returned to their work, Eduardo turned to her.
“You losing your memory is the worst thing that could've ever happened to you, Senora Angel, and the whole ranch. You and the Senora are beautiful together. Your love…it is out of this world.”
Swallowing hard, Starr looked down at her boots. Her mind conjured up the hurt look in Angel's dark eyes. Was that exotic creature really the love of her life? How did she even get involved with her? She looked up at Eduardo.
“We were drinking at a cantina in town when she walked in. You couldn't take your eyes off her. As soon as she'd left, you questioned the barman. She owned a ranch and we were looking for a place to lay low. The very next day we rode out here and got ourselves hired. You were promoted very soon afterwards,” he said with a cheeky grin.
She stepped closer to the man and looked deep into his eyes, before averting hers. “Have I always preferred female company?”
“All the time, Amiga . They're all drawn to you. You seem to know what you're doing too, because many came back to you for more.”
Blushing furiously, Starr looked away. Good heavens, what happened to her in the past ten years? Last she remembered was breaking her back in Widen Creek trying to keep the Barclays Brothers' Bank from stealing the ranch from them. Her heart clenched. Mary and Gertrud? What happened to her sisters? She had promised her parents that she would look after them. She turned her gaze on the man again. Maybe he would know. He did say that they've been riding together for seven years now. She took a deep breathe.
“ Amiga ?”
“What do you know of my life before…before I met you?”
Eduardo shrugged. “Not enough, my friend.” He calmly rolled a cigarette. “What I know is only what you told me.”
“And what did I tell you?” Her blue eyes were intense as she looked at him.
“I knew that you were looking for two men, James Hunter and Philemon Madison.” He took a drag on his cigarillo and slowly blew the smoke heavenwards. “You said that they stole your life from you.”
Starr felt abject disappointment at that. Was that all she told a man she supposedly saved and who had been her only family for the past seven years. Besides Angelica, it seems.
“Was that all I told you?”
A flicker of hope filled her at Eduardo's reply, but at the same time uncharacteristic fear flooded her for what was to come.
“What more do you know?”
“Your sisters,” Starr felt her palms become sweaty. “…it seems have gotten involved with the wrong kind of men while you were on a cattle drive. That is why you are looking for Hunter and Madison.”
“What did they do?” Her voice was cold and her eyes narrowing as she studied the Mexican.
“They kidnapped your sisters and traded them to a group of banditos.”
“What the hell…?” Her heart was shattering inside as she thought of her beautiful twin sisters and how scared they must've been. She felt her anger build inside. “Where are they now?”
“Hunter and Madison?” She took a quick step forward and the man held up his hands. “Your sisters are at Girls' school in Boston where you've sent them?”
Her head bowed in relief. They were safe. Thank heavens, they were safe. Her head lifted slowly. “And the banditos? What happened to them?”
Eduardo's eyes were unreadable as he looked at her. “You killed them all.”
Starr stiffened at the news. “Why would I kill them all? Unless of course if they refused to release my sisters or if they…” She couldn't say it. No, it couldn't have happened. Mary and Gertrud were too young.
“Yes, they violated them.” He spat out the stub of his cigarillo and stepped on it. His eyes when they met hers held immense admiration. “That day I found out just how dangerous you truly are.”
“My…my sisters…How are they?” she asked passed a hard knob in her throat. “How did they take it?”
“Not well, amiga, not well at all. But lucky for them Senora Angel came into their lives to help them through. “It has taken them years to get over their ordeal and it took you even longer to come to terms with your sisters' dishonor.” Eduardo's dark eyes were intense. “Senora Angel patiently brought you all back to life.”
Angel . Angel helped them to get over their ordeal? She turned to look at the door and saw the tall form of the woman in question standing at the window. I am the woman who loves you with all my heart and soul , she recalled Angel's words. She met and held the woman's eyes. She must really love her if she had done that for her family. Why couldn't she remember the woman? She turned back to Eduardo.
“Eduardo, what happened to me?”
“We came across some cattle rustlers about three weeks ago and were chasing them down when Diablo missed a step and you were dumped head first to the ground.”
“Three weeks?” she asked weakly. She'd been laid up in bed for the past three weeks?
Eduardo looked passed her as he nodded. “Yes. You were unconscious for three weeks.”
She shook her head slowly and felt the earth sway with her at the movement. She felt strong hands on her shoulders and looked up into her friends dark eyes with gratitude. Before she could actually thank him, another set of arms curled around her waist and she was pulled into a soft, sweet smelling body. Angel . My Angel. She stiffened at that. Where the hell did that come from? She turned slowly and met concerned amber eyes.
“I told you it was too early for you to be up and about, Starr?”
This was the first time the woman used her name and Starr felt a jolt go through her body at the sensuous way Angel pronounced her name. She searched the dark eyes, looking for something. She didn't know what. But she wanted to see something in there that was going to make the last three weeks disappear and perhaps give her a peek into the life she'd had with this woman.
“Come, you need to eat something. You are still weak.”
Starr turned her head to look at Eduardo and found him smiling back at her. “Just in case you've forgotten that too, saying ‘no' to Senorita Angel is not a wise. And by the way, she's right. You need to take it easy.” He turned to the dark beauty. “Do you want me to help you get her into the house, Senora?”
Starr slowly pushed away from the soft body of the woman, feeling her body reeling at the loss of contact. “I will walk into the house on my own two feet,” she said calmly and stepped around Angel. When she was a few feet away, she turned back to the other two to find two sets of concerned dark eyes watching her. “And? Are you coming or not?”
She saw two sable brows lift slowly, before Angel gave Eduardo a curt nod and walk toward her. “If I didn't know better, querida, I would've said you were faking this memory loss thing. You sounded like your own self for a while there. Bossy and definitely like my golden butterfly.”
Blue eyes widened in shock and Angel chuckled softly as she took Starr's hand and lead her into the house.
The warm water felt wonderful against her skin and Starr threw her head back inhaling the fragrant bath oils. It was almost impossible to believe that she was enjoying such luxury. Her childhood had been hard and some nights they had to go to bed hungry, but they were a happy family. At age sixteen it was too late for her to attend school, but she had made sure that it was not the fate of her ten year old twin sisters. Money was a scarcity in the Henderson home, but she had implored her father to let go of the only farmhand they had in their employ. She would take his place instead. The money used to pay the farmhand saved and used to buy new clothes for the twins so they could attend the small school in Widen.
“But what about you, Starr,” she recalled her father asking her that day almost ten years ago. “What of your dreams? You surely want to have your own family one day, don't you?”
“Not now, father. My family needs me now and I want to make sure that my sisters don't have to do back breaking work all their lives. I want them to have a chance to move East one day and find themselves good men to marry.”
Her father's blue eyes, so like her own, had softened. Andrew Henderson was not a man of many words, but a man who could show his gratitude. He engulfed her in a huge bear hug, her father's equivalent of saying thank you. She missed them all. The whooping cough had taken her mother first, leaving her with two young girls and a heartbroken father. He didn't last long and was soon joined his beloved Emily.
She had sold off their wagon and some of the farm implements soon afterwards so she could hire men to help her with the cattle drive, knowing that with only the three of them on the farm, keeping track of the 70 head of cattle was going to be difficult. She had to sell them all off fast so she could send her sisters to a school in the East. Without their parents, the West wasn't going to be gentle on them.
It suddenly felt as if a dark cloth was tossed over her head, casting her sight and mind in total darkness. As much as she tried to remember, she couldn't. She pushed harder to draw up some of the memories. Even the cattle drive. Nothing. Instead her head began to throb at the abuse. She tried on last time and this time, she gasped at the sharp pain that shot through her head. She felt tears of anger and helplessness trickle down her cheeks. Of what use was she to her sisters and Angel if she'd lost all of her memories of the last ten years. The past decade seemed to have been the darkest and also the most enlightening of her life and that of her sisters. She felt, rather than heard the movement and her hand snaked out with blinding speed to where her guns lay next to the bath.
A soft gasp sounded and when she opened her eyes, it was to look into Angel's eyes as they stared at the barrel of her gun. Starr quickly lowered the gun, ashamed at having aimed it at Angel. This was their bathing room, who else but her would enter it unannounced?
“Sorry about that.”
Angel was quiet as she looked down at her and Starr averted her gaze. Angel had dragged her into the house earlier and into the bathing room where she'd instructed the servant girls to refresh the bathwater. Then she had carefully helped her out of her clothes, her movements brisk. At first, Starr was shy of being naked in the woman's presence, but after what Eduardo had told him, it seemed as if Angel knew her better than anyone else. There wasn't anything she could hide from this woman except, of course, the tears on her face. She raised a hand to wipe her face, but Angel quickly knelt down next to the bath.
“No. Let me do that.” With gentle fingers, she brushed the tears away, her eyes tender as they looked into her blue ones. “We have been through so much together, my love, and every time we've managed to overcome all those obstacles.” The fingertips lightly brushed over her eyebrows. “This time however, I'm scared.”
Having this beautiful sweet-smelling creature so close to her was wreaking havoc with her senses. It suddenly struck her what Angel had said. She was scared. But why? She wasn't the one who'd lost almost half of her life's memories.
“Why are you scared?” she asked carefully, studying the beautiful face intently.
“Because this time I will have to brave the storm alone.” The dark eyes were infinitely sad. “I know that you can't do anything about your memory and I don't want you to think that I'm trying to make you feel guilty. But no matter what came across our paths in the past, we always solved it together. We could fight and you would leave the house and not return for a full day, but I knew you would come back to me, because I knew you loved me.” She took a deep breath. “This time is different, my love. You don't remember me. You don't remember our love. I'm left alone, trying to find a way to help you regain your memory and preserve our love in the meantime.”
Starr just stared at the woman. She could hear the emotion in the woman's voice and could see that she was very close to crying at the same time. She didn't know why, but seeing this woman so obviously distraught, hurt her immensely. Starr shifted, uncomfortably. Angel must've noticed her discomfort, because she quickly straightened. Starr stared down into the soapy water, unsure of what to say to the woman. She could tell her that everything would work out fine, but she wasn't sure if it would. Maybe she could put the woman at ease by showing her that she really wished to regain her memory. Let her read into it what she wants. It's worth a try; she thought and lifted her head. But Angel wasn't there anymore. She looked around the bathing room. Damn! Remembering the pain in the woman's eyes, she exhaled noisily. She owed this woman, if what Eduardo said was true. She slowly hoisted herself out the bath and reached for the towel.
The house was a beehive of activity with servants running up and down carrying bed linen up and down the hallway. Slightly curious, she watched them for a long while, before she proceeded to the stairs. When another wave of servant rushed passed her on the stairs, she reached out her hand and stopped one of them.
“Where can I find Senorita Angel?”
“In the study, Miss.”
She took a turn to her right as she descended the stairs and walked right up to the second door on the right. It was only when she lifted her hand to knock on the door that she realized that she haven't asked the girl for directions to the study. Her hand dropped to her side as she stared wide-eyed at the rich mahogany surface of the door. It must be true then. She and Angel…they were…together. How else would she know her way around the house? Before she could ponder on this new development, the door swung open and Angel stood before her.
“ Querida ?” The softly accented voice held a touch of concern. “You were looking for me?” The dark eyes were intense as they looked at her.
“Yes, I wanted to…” Starr stopped. Yes, what did she want with Angel? She swallowed hard. “I wanted to know if…if we could spend some time together.” Starr closed her eyes briefly at the lame excuse coming from her lips. When she opened her eyes, it was to find Angel looking at her with a brilliant smile. All she could do was blink at the gorgeous woman before her and then it struck her. She'd done well. Angel's eyes were luminous as she looked at her…no…caressed her with her eyes.
“I was just about to ask the servants to bring me something to drink.” A tender smile formed on the exquisite lips. “Would you like to have coffee with me?”
Starr nodded. “Yes. I would like that. Maybe we could also get something to eat. I'm terribly hungry.”
Angel gasped softly. “Oh my, how could I not have thought of that? Come in and sit while I get the cook to prepare something for you. Okay?”
Starr smiled at Angel as she pulled her into the study and led her over to a chair facing the window. She came to a sudden stop, her eyes narrowing. It was strange, but she felt as if she'd been here before. The view…everything was familiar. She turned to look at Angel and found those mesmerizing eyes looking at her.
“This…this is strange. I feel as if…I'm…” She stopped when she felt Angel's hand gently cradle her cheek, the dark eyes gleaming as they looked into hers.
“You always come to my study after you've finished your work with the men. We would sit together, you in that chair,” she pointed to the chair. “… with me in your lap. We would talk, kiss, and sometimes we would…” Angel took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “We were very much in love.” She took a quick step back and cleared her throat. “I will go see what's keeping them.”
Angel moved quickly, leaving Starr staring at the door. She was rattled by what she'd heard. Was it possible that she could love like that? Love was not something she'd seen in her future. Hard work and sacrifice… now that , she knew, was going to be part of her life. But never love…at least not the romantic kind. It's so sad that she couldn't remember any of it.
The plump woman swung around, her hand clasped over her ample bosom.
“Madre! Why are you screaming so?” The older woman huffed.
“She's in the study and she wants to have coffee with me. Oh, she also would like something to eat.”
Luisa shook her head, her eyes warm as they took in the excited blush on Angel's face.
“If I remember correctly, your Gringa has quite an appetite…for almost everything.” She laughed deeply when a red stain moved up Angel's neck to her face.
“Ah, Luisa, it's so wonderful to look into her beautiful eyes again. They make me melt with just one look.” A shadow crossed over the exotic features. “If only they could hold remembrance.”
Luisa dried her hands on her flour-dusted apron and drew the younger woman to her chest. “It will all come back, my child. Remember when Dr. Reyes told us that he wasn't sure if she would ever wake? You told him that she would and it happened. You need to have faith, child. I will say the rosary for her tonight, okay.”
Angel nodded, inhaling the comforting, familiar smell of Luisa. This was her second favorite smell. The first…the first was the warm, sweaty smell of Starr when she comes in from the stables. She swooned every time her Golden Butterfly walked into the study and pulled her into her strong arms and kissed her deeply. She missed that. She's been missing it for the past three weeks and now with Starr's memory loss, it would take even longer before she could experience that again. The thought was so depressing that she pulled away from Luisa and closed her eyes.
“I wonder how I'll survive this, Luisa. She's everything to me.”
Luisa's brown eyes, twinkled as she studied the daughter she never bore, but loved like her own. “You are a beautiful woman, mija , and it is common knowledge that your gringa couldn't keep her hands off you. Why not exploit that?”
Angel blushed and shook her head as she gave Luisa a warning look. Luisa was the first one to realize her attraction to her female cowhand and had tried at all times to get the two of them alone. Thinking back to those days, made Angel smile. Oh, the physical hunger she and Starr was trying, and failing, to hide. The turning point came when Luisa lured her to the stable one night with the news that Panchito, her beloved horse had fallen ill. Storming into the stall of Panchito, she was brought up short by the sight of the gorgeous gringa brushing down a healthy Panchito. They had stared at each other in mute shock for a few moments, before the brush had dropped out of Starr's hand. With the both of them scrambling in the hay to pick it up, they found themselves pushed into each other's personal space, breathing the same air and feeling the same currents running through them both. Starr's lips were soft and hesitant when they sought out hers, but not for long. Their mutual hunger for each other soon had them rolling around in the hay, frantically trying to undress each other. The rest as they say is history. Her blonde was her soul mate, the one person she felt safe with exposing her heart and feelings. Until today…when those glorious blue eyes flickered open, she had almost burst out in tears. And she did just that later when she found those spectacular eyes staring at her with a lack of memory.
“Go now, child. She is waiting for you. I will send Allegra with the drinks and the food. It should not take long. Go back and try to make that gringa remember you. Go now.” Luisa pushed her to the door.
Angel felt the growing tension in her stomach as she walked down the hallway and back to her study. She pushed open the door to find Starr standing at the desk. She had a photo frame in her hand, her face tense. She waited for the blonde to acknowledge her presence, but when after a minute Starr was still staring at the photo she held in her hand, she cautiously crept closer.
She peered at the photograph. It was her favorite and therefore had a special place on her desk. It always helped to relive the longing when Starr was on a cattle drive or had to stay over in town with the cowhands. It didn't matter to Starr that, with their budding relationship, her position in the house had changed; instead she seemed to have worked harder than the men. She wasn't around men as much as Starr, but she understood that for Starr to command their respect she had to prove herself again, just like when she came her the first time.
“It feels strange,” Starr said suddenly, bringing Angel back to the present.
“What is so strange, querida ?” Angel took the picture from Starr's hand and tenderly caressed the glass-covered image.
The blue eyes were dark when the lifted to meet hers. “Us. This.”
She finds our relationship strange. Angel was trying hard to hide the hurt that innocent statement caused. She tried to put herself in Starr's position, but looking at the beautiful blonde, she couldn't imagine herself not knowing her, not remembering her.
“Why do you find it strange?” Angel tried to keep the hurt from her voice. “I think it is the most beautiful thing on this earth.”
Starr shook her head. “That is not what I meant. What I meant to say is that I find it strange that I should've lost what seemed to be the most wonderful period of time in my life.”
Angel took a quick step away from Starr, causing the gunslinger to look at her with confusion in her eyes. Angel lifted her hands to her cheeks and closed her eyes.
“Oh, querida , you have a knack for making my heart soar with you words.” She opened her eyes to find a blush creeping up Starr's face. “You've always overwhelmed me with your love.”
They looked at each other long and hard.
“I have a question though.”
“You can ask me anything, Starr.”
Starr turned and walked over to the chair she always picked when she came to Angel's study. Angel smiled. All that was missing now was her sitting on Starr's lap struggling to keep the gunslinger's eager hands from her person.
“Why me?” Starr noisily expelled air from her lips. “It's obvious that you're an educated lady and from the Spanish nobility. Why would you settle down with a gunslinger?”
Angel grinned at the question. Starr had asked her this question at least four times before. She decided to answer it the same way she'd done all those times.
“First of all you're not just a gunslinger. You're the most beautiful gunslinger.” Angel chuckled when Starr blushed again. “Secondly, you love me like I am the only woman on this planet.” There was a soft knock on the door. “Our coffee's here.”
Angel went to the door and let the serving girl in. If she hadn't been looking at the girl as she placed the tray on the table, she would've missed the shy look the girl threw in Starr's direction. Hot anger surged through her at the audacity of the girl, but a look at Starr face made her rage disappear. The blue eyes looked at the girl vacantly. She didn't even showed the least bit of interest. Angel's heart settled at the knowledge. She knew that Starr wasn't immune to a woman's charms. She noticed signs of arousal from her partner throughout the day. The truth was simply that she wasn't interested in the girl. So much for the girl's attempt to capitalize on Starr's illness.
When the door closed behind the girl, Angel served them each a cup of coffee. She watched in amusement as Starr demolished the sandwiches. Her poor love was hungry, really hungry. She sipped her coffee as she studied the other woman. It was near impossible for her to think that there could be anyone more beautiful than her golden butterfly.
Starr suddenly looked up and caught her staring. Angel didn't look away, instead she allowed herself to drown in the clear blue eyes. Her intense scrutiny caused the gunslinger to avert her eyes even as a deep blush crept up her neck. Angel sighed softly.
“I'm sorry for staring. It's just that I've missed looking into your eyes.” When Starr's blush deepened, Angel shrugged. “I should remember to back down a bit and give you time to find your way back to me.” She left the chair and walked over to her desk, where she stood with her back to Starr, ruffling through the papers. “A few days ago I received a telegram requesting my presence at the Spanish Court. I postponed my travel plans because I didn't want to leave you while you were still unconscious.” She turned to back to Starr. The blue eyes were looking back at her curiously. “You need time and with me trying to pressurize you into remembering, I'm afraid I might be doing more harm than good.”
“When are you leaving and for how long will you be away?”
Angel swallowed the hurt. She should remember that she was a total stranger to Starr at the moment. The old Starr would've balked at her leaving, applying every trick under the sun to get her to weasel her way out of the trip.
“I'll leave tomorrow for San Francisco to meet with my solicitor before taking a boat to Madrid. The journey is long and I should be gone for a year at the most.” Angel turned away from Starr. “There is a holiday break coming up and I will ask your sisters to come keep you company until school resumes.” She waited for Starr to say something and when nothing was forthcoming, she turned around. She gasped when she found Starr standing behind her. She'd forgotten how quietly the woman could move. The blue eyes were serious as they searched hers.
“I'm sorry for this, Angel. I…I wish I had the power to change any of this.”
Angel almost cried at the sincerity in Starr's voice. She gently cupped the blonde's cheek. “I know, mi amor . I just pray that you will remember me in time.”
Starr leaned into the caress. “Me too.”
Caught up in the moment, they held each other's gaze. Had the situation been different, Angel would've leaned closer and kissed Starr. Instead, she lowered her gaze and moved around the desk to stand at her chair.
“I have a few final arrangements I have to make before I leave tomorrow.” She looked up and met Starr's confused gaze. “Please feel free to keep me company if you like.”
Starr shook her head. “I think I'll go out and meet the hands. I would also like to see where I might be needed.” Starr walked over to the chair and picked up her hat. “I will see you later. Thank you for the coffee.”
As soon as the door closed behind Starr, Angel dropped her head in her hands. She really needed to get away from here. It was so difficult to be around Starr and not touch her the way she wanted to. Tomorrow couldn't come soon enough.
Starr spent the rest of the day outside with the men. Even though there was a slight feeling of familiarity as she engaged with them, she couldn't remember their names or any history she had with them. She was pleasantly surprised when the men rounded up the horses and drove them to the corral and a beautiful dark mare broke away to come over to where she stood. It bumped her with its head, neighing softly. She raised her hand to touch the shining coat when it struck her. This was her horse. She raked her brain for names and one suddenly popped up.
“Diablo…” she whispered hesitantly and the horse neighed again, nuzzling her hair. “Oh girl, how could I forget you?”
“She's been looking for you every day for the last few weeks. She'd refused to leave the corral and kept on staring at the house.” Eduardo patted the horse's flank. “It's only now that she has her eye on a wild stallion we caught last week that she began to leave the corral.”
“We suspect so, yes. She is not too far long yet.” He held out a cigarillo to her. “We are having barbacoa for supper. Are you joining us?”
Starr stared at the cigarillo. “Do I smoke?”
The Mexican chuckled. “Not so much that Senora Angel has found out, but you did like one when we went into town to play cards at the cantina.”
“Then I would rather not want to start again. About supper…the Senora is leaving for Boston tomorrow morning. I would like to spend the evening with her.”
“Eh…” Eduardo said with a leer. “You remember, I see.”
Starr blushed. “No, I don't remember. I simply want to have supper with her and talk for a while before she leaves.”
“That is not good, you know.”
“What?” Angel asked with surprise.
“The Senora leaving could bring problems for you.” At her puzzled frown, Eduardo shrugged. “With your memory gone, the ladies will fight for your attention now. You especially need to watch out for Ramona. She has always tried to corner you in the stables.”
She blinked at Eduardo for a few moments. “Wha…what does this have to do with Angel leaving?”
“They only stay away when she is here, but when she leaves they make no secret of their desire for you. Now that you do not remember the Senora, they will see you as…what do you gringos say…fair game.”
A hand came over to lead Diablo away and Starr patted the horse gently, giving it a kiss on the nose. With an answering neigh, the mare followed the man and Starr turned to Eduardo who was lighting a cigarillo. “I don't think that will happen. Even if I never remember my life with Angel and should I want a woman, she would be the only one I might consider.”
Eduardo blew out a stream of smoke and nodded. “You should tell that to the ladies. Maybe they will leave you alone then.”
“Maybe I will if they were to try anything.” She glanced at the hacienda, for some inexplicable reason eager to see Angel. “I have to go wash up before supper.”
Angel was sitting in the lounge sipping wine when Starr entered the house. Their eyes met and held for a few seconds before Angel looked away. “Would you like something to drink? Doctor Reyes said to avoid alcohol for the time being, but Luisa can make you that cold tea drink you like so much.”
Starr pursued her lips. It was really unsettling to have everybody know something about her whilst she didn't. Today was a day of many discoveries. “Thank you. I will go and wash up before supper.”
“Your drink will be waiting for you when you get back,” Angel said, but still avoided direct eye contact.
Starr left the lounge to go wash up. As she stepped from the bathroom, she looked around the room. She woke up in this room this morning and from what she remembered Angel said that this was their room. She walked to the door and reached out to the door handle only to grind to a halt.
He hand held onto the door handle as her head lowered. A deep moan spilled over her lips and she tightened her hold on the handle to support her buckling legs. The feeling lasted but a few seconds and it left Starr gasping softly as she tried to make sense of what had just transpired. She had lost her memory, but she could still remember what it felt like to have an orgasm. Too scared to let the door handle go lest she collapsed, Starr rested her head against the wooden surface. What had triggered that? And whose hands was she feeling on her body in that few seconds? She took a ragged breath. She had no one to talk to about this? Asking Angel would be too embarrassing. She took a careful step away from the door. She was glad to find that her legs had steadied somewhat.
Angel carefully studied the blonde woman sitting opposite her as there was a short lull in the conversation. She was happy to see that the injury had not affected Starr's appetite at all. Any other person waking from a three week long coma would still be bedridden by now. Her gringa was strong and stubborn. Watching her through the window as she talked with the cowhands, Angel had seen her sway more times than she cared to remember. It had taken all her willpower not to rush to Starr's side at those moments. She opened her mouth to speak, but remembering their circumstance, she quickly close her mouth and looked down at her own plate. She would never have believed that it would be so painful to be around Starr and feel so lonely, if she weren't experiencing it now. She had to constantly watch what she said around the woman and then she had to deal with those vacant looks she got from those beautiful blue eyes.
Just now she wanted to make a joke about all the amount of food Starr could take in one sitting. It was a standing joke amongst the servants that Angel was the reason Starr burnt energy faster than a stallion. To make that joke now would surely make the blonde feel uncomfortable. Angel pierced a piece of chicken with her fork and brought it to her mouth. The blonde's concentration was fixed on her plate, giving Angel the opportunity to study her languidly.
She doubted she would ever get over how beautiful Starr was. With her head bent, long light eye lashes hid the gorgeous sapphire eyes. Angel's eyes moved down to the cleft in the strong chin. From there, her eyes moved to the broad powerful shoulders. She closed her eyes. She couldn't take this anymore. Without a word she climbed to her feet and left the dining room. Pushed on by the pain the tears threatening to fall, she rushed down the hall, up the stairs to the guestroom. She locked the door behind her and threw herself on the bed. Tears poured down her face as she took deep raking breaths.
Starr dropped her fork and sat back in her chair. The helplessness she felt was paralyzing. What should she do? She couldn't follow the woman. It seemed her mere presence was what had made Angel flee from her. She reached for water glass and drained it.
“She loves you with a passion that is not easy to describe.”
Instinctively, her hand went for her pistol at the unexpected voice behind her. Starr turned to find a short, greying woman standing behind her. She was dressed in an apron, a dishcloth over her shoulder. Who was she? She'd met a number of the servants today, but not her. The woman moved closer.
“My name is Luisa and I am the cook. Angelica is like a daughter to me.” The dark eyes softened. “I raised her myself when she was born and adopted her when her parents died.”
Starr acknowledged the woman with a smile and Luisa smiled back.
“You two are very much in love. You are Angel's reason for living, gringa . I have never seen her so hurt and alone before. Even when her parents, whom she loved very much, passed on,” Luisa made a hasty cross. “She had mourned but never have I seen her so broken. Death brings finality and in the end it is that that helps with the mourning. You are alive and yet you are so far from her.”
Starr averted her eyes. What should she do? Except for the short flashback she'd experienced in the room earlier, she remembered nothing else. She wished she had at least one memory of them together to comfort Angel with.
“I don't know what to do. I seem to hurt her by being around her.”
Luisa smiled sadly. “I know, mariposa , I know. It will work out in the end. I just need one promise from you.”
Starr looked up, her eyes wide. “What is it?” She would try anything and do anything to vanquish the pain in Angel's eyes.
Luisa's eyes were intense as they searched hers. “Promise me that even if you never remember her again, that you will open your heart to the love she wants to offer you. Do you promise?”
“I promise,” Starr answered without hesitation. As soon as the words left her mouth, she swallowed. Was that really what she wanted? Could she get over the fact that Angel was a woman? She felt Luisa's hand on her shoulder. Whatever her doubts, she had made a promise. She might have forgotten five years of her life, but she remembered that she was a woman of her word. She looked up at Luisa. “I promise, Luisa.”
The Mexican woman smiled broadly. “Then it is only a matter of time before my child's laugher will ring through this hacienda again. But tonight I want you to leave her to her loss. Through tears, the healing will begin.”
“Will you go to her to see if she is okay…please? I will feel so much better if I know she is not alone.” Starr said as she came to her feet. She towered over the petite woman.
“I will take her something to help her sleep.”
Starr squeezed the woman's shoulder. “Thank you.”
She left the dining room. She needed to find Eduardo. The night was warm as she crossed the large open space to the bunkhouse. She could hear the men laugh and joke inside as she knocked on the door. A fresh-faced boy opened the door almost immediately. Starr was introduced to him earlier. “Good evening, Miguel. I'm looking for Eduardo.”
The boy stepped back, allowing her to enter. The bunkhouse was large. Twelve beds were placed around the room, each covered with a colorful quilt. The men were in various stages of undress as they sat around the table, smoking and playing cards. Eduardo came to his feet when he saw her.
“Amiga? Everything okay?” Worry etched his darkly handsome face as he bit down on smoldering cigarillo in his mouth.
Starr waved a greeting at the men. “Everything's okay, Eduardo. I was wondering if I could take you up on your earlier offer.” The men were all quiet as she spoke with Eduardo. She saw the confusion on Eduardo's face. Starr cleared her throat. “The cigarillo?”
“Ah, of course, amiga ” He began to roll a fresh cigarette. “Will you join us for a few hands while you are here?”
She looked at men sitting around the table. They gave her eager, hopeful looks. Why not? The game was sure to take her mind off Angel for a few hours.
“I would like that.”
The man scurried to vacate a chair for her. Eduardo handed her the cigarette and one of the men lit it for her. She took a long drag and raised her brows when she didn't even cough. Miguel placed a cup before her and poured a clear, potent smelling drink which he offered to her. She wasn't supposed to imbibe alcohol, but where was the fun in playing cards without tossing back a few drinks.
“Thank you, Miguel. Who's dealing?” She took a sip from the drink and felt her eyes began to water at the strong liquor. It was tequila. She could never confuse the burning, slightly bitter taste with anything else. When she looked at Eduardo, it was to find the vaquero, smiling at her.
“It is good to have you back, Starr.”
Starr tossed the rest of the drink back and sucked in her breath. “It's good to be back.”
Angel didn't know what woke her. She looked down at herself and grimaced. She was still fully clothed. She replayed the last few hours of the night. After leaving the dining room she'd come to the guest room and cried. She must've cried herself to sleep. She rolled over onto her back and stifled a scream when she bumped into a body. Slowly, she sat up.
Starr was fast asleep next to her. Angel's face split into a huge grin. This was a splendid surprise. The blonde was lying on her back, her arm thrown over her eyes. Angel's nose wrinkled at the unmistakable smell of alcohol and tobacco. Her eyes narrowed dangerously. What was wrong with the woman? Dr. Reyes' order was clear. She hoped Starr had not caused a major setback with her irresponsibility. She climbed out of bed and began to disrobe. Dressed in only a nightshift, she looked back at Starr.
The gunslinger was still fully dressed. It must not be very comfortable, she thought as her eyes traveled over the tall frame. For a moment she considered undressing the woman, but dropped the idea just as quickly. The blonde was obviously drunk and Angel didn't want to startle her. How did she get in here anyway? She had taken a guestroom in a different wing from where their bedroom was. It was impossible to make such a mistake—even when drunk. Could it be that Starr had sought her out on purpose? The thought made a warm feeling settle in her chest. If that was the case, it was a wonderful sign.
Luisa had come to her earlier in the evening and brought her a sleeping potion. The housekeeper knew her very well, sometimes even better than Angel knew herself. Angel can't remember if she took the potion. She knew she was going to do so. The bitter after taste of the root drink, was also absent from her mouth. She scanned the room and found the empty glass on the nightstand on the side where Starr slept. Oh hell…the blonde was drunk and drugged. She went to kneel on the bed and studied Starr's chest for any movement. A soft sigh of relief escaped her lips when the blonde's chest rose. She debated her next move, but in the end concern won out.
With sure hands she rolled the gunslinger onto her side. Lying on her back in the state she was in was an accident waiting to happen. She didn't know how much Starr had to drink, but she didn't want her to choke if she got sick in the night. The blonde protested softly at having her sleep disturbed. The beautiful lips pursed in irritation before they relaxed again. The sight was so endearing that Angel leaned over and brushed her lips over Starr's. She drew in a sharp breath when the lips parted and a warm tongue pressed against her lips. She wanted to pull away, but the idea of sharing one more kiss with Starr before she had to leave was too tempting. She parted her lips and allowed Starr's tongue entrance.
By the time the kiss ended, Angel's face was wet with tears. It was the most intimate kiss she'd had in a very long time. It will probably also be the last one for the time being. Starr was still fast asleep and Angel brushed over her hair.
“I love you. Please get well soon.” She doused the lamp which she had left on earlier and curled her body around Starr's. With her lips still tingling from the kiss, she fell asleep.
Where the hell was she? Starr lay still, her eyes closed as she listened to the sounds around her. She was thirsty, so thirsty that her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth. The room was quiet. Her breathing the only sound she could discern. The blue eyes flickered open and she simultaneously became aware of the pounding headache. She turned on her side. The pillow showed signs of having been slept on. She lifted herself on her elbow and pulled the pillow close. A familiar scent assaulted her nose. Angel. The spicy scent was unique to the woman. There was sudden burst of light behind her eyes and Starr fell on her back, her eyes wide. She gritted her teeth against the piercing pain in her head. For a few moments a near paralyzing pain held her immobile. There was another burst of light, causing the pain to intensify. She must've screamed or something, because the bedroom door opened. The concerned face of Luisa swam before her.
“Hurts…head hurts,” she managed to croak. Luisa's eyes widened even further.
“I will call Dr. Reyes. She rushed to the door and shouted an order. Starr felt the woman's fingertips on her temples as they began to gently move in small circles. “He will not be long, Starr.”
Starr closed her eyes, trying to concentrate on the movement of Luisa's fingertips in the hope that it will take her mind of the blinding pain. Her eyes fluttered open again when Luisa spoke. A servant girl stood next to her with a bowl and a cloth. Luisa's fingertips left her brow as she took the cloth from the girl and dipped it into the bowl. When she pressed it to her forehead, Starr gasped at the cold. Luisa made soft shushing sounds as she cupped Starr's cheek.
“It will help; just give it time, mariposa .”
And it did. After a few more applications, Starr felt the pain began to recede until there was only dull ache left. She sighed in relief as she grabbed Luisa's hand and slowly, so as not to jar her aching head, to her lips.
“Thank you, madrina ,” she whispered. Luisa gasped softly and Starr's eyes sought out hers. Luisa's eyes were swimming in tears. “Luisa?”
“You haven't called me that in a long time, Starr.” Luisa pressed a soft kiss on Starr's forehead.
“I always call you that,” Starr murmured, loving the maternal attentions.
“Not since you lost your memory, mija .”
The words hung in the air as they both stared at each other. Luisa's hand fluttered to her chest as a tear escaped and rolled down her weathered cheek. Starr's lips fell open as she gaped at Luisa. Memories flooded her mind. Looking at Luisa she recalled the day that the older woman dragged her off to the chapel to be baptized. Luisa had stood in as her godmother, hence the reason she called her madrina . That day they had slaughtered a steer and the party continued for days afterwards. The party ended when after three days of complete drunkenness, Angel threatened to kick her out of their bed and withhold sex for a month. Angel! She sat up only to fall back as her head felt like it wanted to fall off. Angel was gone.
“I need to find Angel,” she said urgently, but Luisa held her down.
“You are not well enough to get on a horse, Starr. We have to hear what the doctor has to say first.” Luisa stroked over her hair. “I don't want you to fall again. This time you might forget to breathe completely.”
Starr knew that Luisa was right, but she didn't think she would survive a week without seeing Angel. Especially now that she remembered all the love they felt for each other. She closed her eyes tightly and conjured up an image of Angel. Her heart ached as the only image that came to mind first was a recent one. Angel's sad eyes were begging with her to remember her.
“Please send someone to stop her, Luisa. Please don't let her go away,” she begged softly, not opening her eyes. “I want to see her.”
Luisa brushed away a tear that Starr didn't even know she had shed. “She should be on the train already, Starr. It would be too late to call her back.”
Starr eyes opened and more tears spill over. Luisa gently lifted her into her arms and held her tight. “We will send her a telegram.”
Her heart breaking at the absence of Angel, Starr clung to Luisa.
After a two day trip, Angel was relieved to have all the travelling behind her. She smiled politely at the bellhop as he placed her luggage next to the bed. She handed him a tip and saw his face light up at the amount. She wished she could conjure up a smile like the boy. Her eyes welled up. She had tried hard to push Starr to the back of her mind since she left the hacienda, but so many things had triggered memories of the blonde gunslinger. On the train there was this dark dangerous-looking woman, most probably a bounty hunter, who was transporting a criminal to stand trial in San Francisco. The aura of the woman reminded her of her own deadly gunslinger, and for the rest of the trip she had found it difficult to keep her eyes from straying to the bounty hunter.
The door closed behind the bellhop and Angel threw herself face down on to the bed. She was tired, but needed to get rid of the grime of her trip first. Maybe later she could order lunch. After a nap she'd see what the night has to offer. She always liked to visit the playhouse when she was here for business. She'll have to ask for a program too when she ordered her lunch.
She rolled onto her back and for a moment she lay there, allowing her thoughts to venture far beyond the city. She swallowed as she remembered the kiss she'd shared with Starr and the way her body had felt as it had curled into hers. The morning she left, she'd woken earlier so she could commit the face of her sleeping lover to memory. She had no intention of travelling to Madrid as she'd told Starr, but she needed time away to give her lover the chance to recuperate without her adding pressure. Instead, she planned to stay in San Francisco for at least a few months. Staring down at her slumbering lover, she'd committed her face to her memory. She hoped it would be enough to keep her company when the nights dragged on and the bed turned cold and lonely.
She sat up slowly and began to remove her jewelry. She will have that bath now. Maybe she would feel better afterwards. An hour later, Angel sat before the mirror brushing out her hair. She contemplated ordering lunch, but realized that she wasn't really hungry. Placing the brush on the vanity, she shrugged out of her gown and crawled under the thin bedcover. As she closed her eyes, a set of blue eyes swam before her. She took a shuddering breath and jerked her eyes open. Maybe she would lie awake for a while instead.
The dark eyes twinkled as they studied her from under bushy eyebrows. “It's indeed a pleasure to have you back to your old self. I'm sure a few rustlers would disagree but then that's their problem.”
Starr gave the doctor a wide grin. With the return of her memories, so did the knowledge of just how much she liked the man. Over the years he'd been a source of great advice for her especially when it pertained to Angel. The doctor was a true gentlemen and he'd diligently worked on Starr's rough edges at the request of the gunslinger. Starr wanted to fit better into the mold of what it would mean to be the life partner of a Spanish noblewoman.
“Knowing I'm back on my feet, should be deterrent enough for any rustler hoping to help himself to our steers.”
“Fernando and his gang were very active in your absence. They've hit the Hernandez ranchero as well as the Ortiz. They were heard boldly boasting about it at Maria's Cantina afterwards.”
A small scowl came over Starr's face as she listened to the doctor. She's had a few run-ins with Fernando and his men before and every time she had come out the victor. But even with the odds against him, the cattle rustler still believed that he could best her. Maybe she survived this accident, to finally put an end to the man's reign of terror. She noticed the doctor studying her carefully.
“What about the Sheriff and his deputies? I fail to believe that they couldn't round up Fernando and his gang after all their boasting.” Even as she asked the question, Starr knew what to expect. Utter incompetence. As likable as Timothy Parsons was, he was not the right man for the job. The tin star needed a forcible contender.
“Sheriff Parsons were over in Boston Ravine at the time and his deputies were all out chasing down Julio and his men for breaking their comrade out of jail.” The doctor has a bitter smile on her face. “No one was willing to call Fernando on his confession and the Sheriff felt there was a lack of evidence.”
Starr grimaced. Just as she'd thought: incompetence. “Where is Fernando now?”
“They rode out a week ago and no one's heard from them since.”
“Good riddance,” Starr mumbled. She swung her feet off the bed. “Well, Doc, how am I doing? Can I ride already?”
“Well, everything looks good. However, with the fall you sustained a head wound and I would rather you wait a while before you get back on a horse.”
Starr exhaled noisily. “What about a wagon?”
“At a measured pace, yes.”
“That is good news, Doc. Thank you.” Starr waited for the doctor to gather his belongings and escorted him out to his wagon. “Keep your eyes open, Doc. Let me know when Fernando is spotted in the area.”
“I will. I will be back next week to give you another checkup.”
“Good day, Doctor.” The doctor's wagon was a small dot on the horizon, but still Starr stood on the porch looking at the dusty road. Now that she had the doctor's permission, she was itching to get moving.
“I'm scared to know what goes through your mind, amiga ,” Eduardo's said behind her. She turned to face the man. Memories of their exploits ran through her mind as she watched the man lighting a cigarillo. “Rumor is that you remember everything now.” He looked up, his dark eyes intense as they studied her. His hands stopped moving as he cocked her head to the side. For a moment they just stared at each other. “Madre, it's true. I can see that shadows of your memories in your eyes.”
“It seems the tequila did the work.”
Eduardo smiled broadly, his teeth flashing white in his sun darkened face. “I told you that it is a magical drink.”
Starr grinned teasingly. “I believe you now.” Fragrant smoke filled the air and Starr inhaled deeply. Eduardo always smelled like this.
“You never told me what you were doing out here staring at the road,” Eduardo said and blew out a stream of smoke. “You will not insult me by lying to me, would you?”
Starr smirked at the man. “You know me that well, huh?”
“I know enough of you to call you a trusted friend,” Eduardo said slowly, as he squinted at her through the cloud of smoke. “What do you need me to do?”
Jeffrey Cochran jumped to his feet the moment, the statuesque woman entered his office. Rendered speechless for a few moments, he could only take in the woman's beauty. He remembered the first time the woman had entered his office ten years ago. With the painful shadows of her parents' death still visible on her face, the sixteen year old girl already showed signs of the gorgeous creature she was going to grow into. Back then he was still a single, young man and had entertained the thought of pursuing her romantically. But golden dark eyes held no interest what so ever that day, a reason he contributed to the mourning of her parents.
In the years following she'd been by to see him many more times, and still her eyes lacked interested. Finally he gave up hope and turned his attentions elsewhere. They both seem to have struck gold simultaneously, because as soon as a shy chambermaid appeared on his horizon, the Spanish beauty stopped by to see him again. This time she wasn't alone. Her flint-eyed companion screamed danger and caused the hair on the nape of his neck to bristle, but Angelica's eyes were bright with interest as they'd rested on the blonde.
However today upon closer inspection, she looked tired and sad. He stepped closer and reached for her hand. He gently brushed her knuckles with is lips. When he straightened, he saw a small smile form on the full lips.
“Are you well, Angel? You seem…” Jeffrey searched his mind for a suitable word which would not be insulting in description. “…tired. How was your journey?”
Angel's eyes softened as she looked at him. She was tall for a woman and looked him straight in the eye. “I'm well, Jeffery. Thank you for asking.”
Over the years they have become good friends. As soon as Susan's insecurities regarding the Spanish's woman presence in his life, abated, the two women also became fast friends. His two boys were always eager to accompany him to the hacienda so their Aunt Angel could spoil them rotten. But if there was one thing Angel rarely talked about, it was the part of her life that she shared with the gunslinger. Jeffrey had a good rapport with Starr Henderson, but the gunslinger was a very private person just like Angel. Even though Angel hadn't said anything to the effect, Jeffrey was sure that the sadness in the dark eyes had something to do with Starr. But he won't pry. Angel trusted him well enough to know that whatever she said in confidence would stay just between two of them.
“Would you like some tea, Angel?”
“I won't be staying long, Jeffrey. I simply wanted to know if there was anything you wanted from me before I make my way over to see Susan and the boys.”
As soon as he'd received the note from Angel, stating that she was in town and would like to set a time, he'd known that something was amiss. Not once in all the years he knew Angel, had she came to town without any prior correspondence. For the woman to arrive in San Francisco unannounced and looking sad was reason for concern. He led her to a chair and waited until she was seated before he walked around his desk to take his seat.
“I have nothing pressing for the time being, but I do have some correspondence from Madrid for you.” He opened his drawer and took out a thin stack of letters. “They arrived at the beginning of the week and I was about to forward them to the hacienda,” he said as he handed her the letters.
Without looking at them, Angel thrust the letters into her purse. When she looked up again, Jeffrey was saddened by the lost look on the beautiful face. For a moment he was tempted to ask her to trust him with her pain, but he quickly discarded the idea. If she was going to see Susan, he was sure to hear what the problem was from his wife. It was probably woman related issues that Angel could only discuss with another woman. The brunette came to her feet.
“I will be in town for an infinite period of time. We should make plans for dinner.” Angel smiled, but it lacked her usual exuberance. “I will mention it to Susan too.”
Jeffrey gently placed his hand on her elbow and escorted her of the office.
“Perhaps we can combine it with a trip to the opera. But I'm willing to fall in with whatever you ladies decide.”
It was only eight o'clock in the evening when Angel walked through the doors of the hotel. She gave the clerk a small smile and received a broad one in return. After a week of staying in the hotel, she had become a familiar face to the staff. She made her way over to the steam elevator, but as soon as she reached the doors, she knew that she didn't want to be alone just yet. Her noble idea of giving Starr the space and time to heal had backfired. After five days away from her partner, she felt incredibly sad and lonely. She especially hated the night hours when she was alone with her thoughts and dreams. She turned away from the elevator and made her way to the hotel restaurant. She didn't have to be alone if she can't help it.
She entered the restaurant and was surprised to find it full. It struck her then that it was the weekend after all. As her eyes travelled over the patrons she recognized a few faces she'd seen earlier at the opera. Some, Jeffrey had introduced to her as his clients. Those ones, she greeted with a small nod as she made her way to a table.
“What shall I bring you to drink, ma'am?” A waiter appeared at her table. Before she could place an order, she became aware of another presence next to her table. Looking up, her breath caught as she looked into flinty eyes.
“Could you bring us a bottle of your best champagne?”
Angel stared at the woman as she folded her long frame into a chair opposite from her.
“I hope you do not think me too forward for having ordered for us and for inviting myself over to your table.”
Angel afforded herself a moment to study the woman, before she replied. She was tall, probably the same height as Starr. Although her guns were not visible under her black men's suit, Angel suspected that the woman was armed. She hadn't spent five years of her life with a gunslinger not to know that they rarely, if ever, go around without a weapon. Then there were those eyes. They held the same intense awareness as Starr's. Her longing for her mate intensified as she looked the woman over. As many similarities as there were between this woman and Starr, the primary difference was that the woman was not Starr. Angel slowly sat back in her chair, feeling ready to address the woman.
“It was forward of you on both accounts, but I feel generous enough tonight to forgive you as long it doesn't happen again,” she said coolly. The expression on the other woman's face ranged from surprise to admiration and then desire. A sensual smile tugged at the woman's lips as her green eyes warmed with desire.
“My apologies, ma'am. May I introduce myself? My name's Skylar Kinkaid, Sheriff Skylar Kinkaid.”
Angel acknowledged the introduction with a small nod. “I saw you on the train. You brought a prisoner with you.”
The woman was visibly pleased to know that Angel remembered her. “I too remember you from the train, Miss…”
Once again annoyed by the woman's assumptions, the waiter returning with the champagne, stopped Angel from reacting. They were silent as he poured them each a glass. All the while Angel was aware of the sheriff's eyes on her. She hoped she hadn't given the woman the idea that she was considering something more from her. As soon as the waiter moved away from the table, Skylar reached for her glass.
“Shall we toast to new liaisons?” The Sheriff had a darkly sensual look on her handsome face.
Angel decided that this was the perfect opportunity to make the Sheriff aware of her unavailable status.
“Yes, to new friendships.”
The other woman hesitated a moment, before she nodded. “To friendships.”
After they'd each taken a sip from their glasses, they sat back and studied each other. Skylar was the first to break the silence.
“I take it you're not going to introduce yourself. Is there any reason why such punishment is directed my way, ma'am?” The green eyes were unexpectedly serious and the deep voice held a heavy tone of disappointment.
“My name's Angelique Morientes and I'm here on business.”
The green eyes were intense as Skylar studied her over the rim of her champagne glass. “A beautiful woman like you is probably already committed.”
“Yes. I am.”
“That's a shame.” The Sheriff drained her glass and served herself from the bottle. “An independent woman like you would be undervalued by a man. Your vigor is unique and admirable.”
This time Angel couldn't hide the smirk. The Sheriff's watchful eyes pick up on her amusement.
“You seem to be amused by my observation, Senora Morientes.”
Angel finished her drink with long sip. There was smile on her face when she placed the glass on the table. “I'm amused, Sheriff, because you assumed that I'm partnered with a man.” She came to her feet, trying not to laugh at the stunned look on the other woman's face. “Thank you for the drink and the company, Sheriff.”
Without a backward glance she left the restaurant.
The room was dark and quiet when she entered and foregoing the light, she made her way across the room and out on the balcony. She looked out over the skyline. It was such a beautiful sight, but she would trade it in a heartbeat to lie next to a camp fire with Starr as they discussed the constellations. She suddenly longed for another glass of champagne. One more would've made her tipsy enough to fall into a dreamless sleep. But she wasn't comfortable getting tipsy around a woman who so obviously was sexually attracted to her and whose mere presence also made her long for her mate so fiercely.
She took a deep breath. What was Starr doing now? A tender smile flashed over her face. The blonde was probably playing cards and drinking up a storm with Eduardo. A warm glow settled in her heart. She always liked to give the impression that she disliked Starr's raunchy nights out with the vaqueros. On the contrary, she loved it when her blue-eyed angel stumbled into the house, looking so contrite and anxious at the same time. She was so adorable then. Overwhelmed by her memories, Angel hugged herself. The realization that she might never have the opportunity to make new ones, caused a sob to explode from her lips.
The clerk was nervous, his eyes darting from the guestbook to her, making Starr scowl. Her irritation caused the young man to swallow audibly. It was not her intention to scare the spit out of the man's mouth, but he was stalling and she was eager to see Angel.
“Having trouble finding the room number, mister?” She kept her voice even, but her fists clenched involuntarily. The men's eyes widened at the action. A fine sheen of sweat had begun to form on his upper lip.
“It…It's against hotel policy to give out such information about our guests,” he squeaked out.
Starr closed her eyes to try and calm herself. Maybe if she didn't see the freckled-faced youth, she might be able to keep her hand from creeping to her holster. She was tired after her trip. She'd been so eager to see Angel that she'd barely slept on the train. Sleeping in a public area was anyway not something she did often—unless she had someone she trusted looking over her. She came straight to the Cosmopolitan, knowing that it was Angel favorite hotel and that she stayed here every time she came to the city. Now here she was tired and horny and this little man was trying to keep her from Angel. She opened her eyes slowly was intrigued to find the man looking even more scared. Maybe she should back off before his heart failed.
“What should I do if I want to see one of your guests in a private setting?”
The man's mouth fell open and close again. He quickly wiped his brow, a look of relief flashing in his blue eyes. He seemed to pull himself together, even giving her a faint smile.
“We can send a message to the guest to meet you in the hotel bar, ma'am. It's the most private setting we have.”
“Good. Could you do that for me?”
The man was suddenly very eager. “Of course, ma'am. Whom shall I say is calling?”
A small smile tugged at the corner of Starr's lips. “Just tell her that its news from home.”
The clerk nodded and quickly scribbled a note and calling a bellhop over, he pressed the note in the boy's hand. Finally he returned his attention to her. “The bar is down the hallway, second door to your right, ma'am. I've asked Miss Morientes to meet you there.”
With a curt nod, she left the lobby following the man's directions. Being Friday, the bar was rather full. The bulk of the patrons congregated around the card tables and the bar, leaving a few booths open. Starr made her way to a booth where she would have only the wall behind her and a good view of the door. A waiter made his way over to her and hesitating for a moment, Starr ordered a bottle of champagne. She didn't know about Angel, but this was a joyous reunion for her. Thus, the occasion warrants champagne. While she waited for her drink, her eyes swept over the patrons.
There were a handful of women in the crowd. It was always refreshing to witness this. Back home, no woman who deems herself ‘respectable' will enter a saloon or cantina. Starr snorted. That is actually good for them too, since they would all swoon seeing their ‘respectable' husbands go rabid over the saloon girls. Her eyes leisurely trailed over the card tables, watching carefully to determine how honest the games really were. Not that she was planning on getting in on the action. She had other plans tonight—plans that involved her sultry Spanish lover and very little clothing. Thinking of Angel, her eyes darted to the door. No Angel yet. She reluctantly pulled her gaze from the door and let it brush over the card table nearest to the door. The change was instant. One moment she was all relaxed, bordering on being bored and the next she was battle ready. Her whole body was taut and her eyes were stiff in their sockets as they met the cool green gaze. What the hell was she doing here?
The Sheriff threw her cards on the table and rose to her feet. The movement was slow and calculated. It reminded Starr of a rattlesnake uncoiling. The animosity between them was almost as old as time. Before Skylar Kincaid accepted the tin star, she was just another gun for hire, like Starr. They had found themselves many times on opposite sides and the competition had always been fierce. Somehow Starr began to suspect that it was a perverse game of their clients to always try and play them up against each other. Lucky for them both, neither of them was killed in the fierce rivalry that raged between them. Not yet, that is. The waiter arrived at the table and Starr bristled slightly when he obstructed her view of Skylar. As a precaution, she slipped her six-shooter out of its holster and laid it on her lap.
“No need to serve me. I'm still waiting for someone,” Starr said calmly when the man wanted to pour her a glass. He nodded quickly, but didn't move away. Starr slowly reached into her pocket and handed him a ten dollar note. The men smiled and moved away from the table. As expected, Skylar had moved closer and now sat at a booth a few feet away from her. What was the woman's problem for heaven's sake? They hadn't seen each other in over five years. They were living different lives now. Their eyes met and held for a long moment, before Starr dragged her eyes away to glance at the door.
Almost as if she'd conjured her up, Angel appeared in the doorway. Her bearing screamed panic, as her eyes searched the smoke-filled interior of the bar. Placing her gun on the seat next to her, Starr slowly came to her feet. Instantly, Angel's eyes zeroed in on her and Starr almost laughed at the dumbfounded look on her lover's face.
It took all the willpower Angel possessed not to run to Starr. When the bellhop gave her a note stating she had a visitor from home and was waiting downstairs, her first thought had been that something had happened to Starr. Like a madwoman she had dashed down the hallways and down the stairs to be greeted by the most beautiful sight ever. She slowly made her way over to the tall blonde woman, her eyes roving wildly over her.
Starr was dressed in tight black jeans, a crisp white shirt, a back vest and a black jacket. She looked absolutely delicious to Angel. When the blue eyes shifted slightly to the left, Angel, intrigued, followed Starr's glance. She blinked when she met the cold stare of Sheriff Kincaid. Of course , Angel thought, they would know each other. They were cut from the same cloth. Giving the Sheriff a quick smile she rushed the last few steps to Starr. She was aware of the eyes, especially those of the Sheriff, on them, but after a week of not having seen her lover and having missed her so, Angel threw herself in Starr's arms. She was caught in a strong embrace. They stood like that for a few seconds before Starr gently helped her into the booth. Starr slipped in opposite from her. Angel knew the seating arrangement was not unexpected. She'd been living with this woman long enough to know all her habits.
Her gaze fell on the champagne bottle. It was a good sign. She lifted her gaze and met Starr's. The blue were dark as they studied her causing Angel to blink. If she didn't know better she'd say that Starr was aroused. Her body immediately responded to the look, her nipples stiffening. Starr pointed at the bottle.
“Would you like some champagne?”
Angel held nodded, not trusting her voice. She watched as Starr filled two glasses. “What are we celebrating?”
Starr didn't answer immediately, instead she held up her glass and waited for Angel to follow suit. Their glasses met with a soft clink. Starr took a sip and if it was even possible, her eyes looked even darker than a few moments ago.
“I remember everything.”
In the process of taking a sip from her drink, Angel's hand jerked at the words, causing champagne to spill over the rim. She slowly lowered the glass. Her eyes were wide as she watched the blonde. She didn't look different, nor was she acting differently. She had to know.
“Us?” She didn't care that her voice sounded small and unsure.
The blue eyes flashed and Starr drained her glass too. “Especially us.”
Angel took a shuddering breath and closed her eyes. Was this a dream? Could it really be true? When she opened her eyes, a desired-filled blue gaze met her. “I want to believe, Starr, but…but…” Her voice faded as she averted her eyes. She only looked up again when the blonde spoke.
“The last time we were here was a year and a half ago,” Starr's said, her voice firm and her gaze steady. “I had to threaten a male guest for hammering on our door, complaining that we were too loud.”
Angel gasped. “You truly remember.” Her hands were itching to touch Starr and so she hid them under the table, lest she embarrass them both and scramble over the table to get to the blonde.
“The first thing I remembered was that I love you,” Starr said softly. “Once I remembered, I couldn't wait to come for you.” Starr's voice was thick with emotion. “I needed to be with you, Angel.”
Angel lifted her glass with a shaking hand and gulped down its contents. She threw a quick glance around them. No one was giving them any attention or rather she couldn't see anyone paying then undue attention. She placed her hand on the table and smiled when Starr quickly snatched it up. Together they sat in silence, staring at each other. The clearing of a throat nearby caused their heads to jerk up. A pained grimace came over Starr's face. Sheriff Kincaid stood tall and strong looking down at them. Her green eyes were hard as they rested on their joined hands.
Skylar tipped her head at Angel. “Ma'am, a woman of your caliber would be better off not consorting with criminals,” she said flatly as her eyes moved up to meet Angel gaze. “It could be damaging to a person's character and name.”
Not knowing how to counteract the woman's barb, Angel looked at Starr. The gunslinger sported a huge smirk on her face.
“My, my, my, if it isn't my old friend Sheriff Kincaid?” The blue eyes were cool as they moved over the tall woman. “What did I hear you say about a criminal? I thought, as a law enforcement officer yourself, you'd know better than to accuse a citizen without proof of the alleged crimes which resulted in said citizen being branded a criminal. If you ask me, I'd say you were trying to bait me.”
The Sheriff's eyes narrowed to slits as her hands came to rest on her hips. She even widened her stance a little as if she was getting herself into a shooting position. “You know for a fact what you are, Henderson.”
The tension at the table was so thick; it was almost impossible to breathe freely. Angel swallowed hard, not knowing if she should put an end to the verbal duel or to stay out of it. It was obvious there were some bad blood between the two women and she didn't want to embarrass her woman by interfering and making it seem as if she was hiding behind her skirts. Instead she reached for the champagne bottle and refilled their glasses.
“There's not much difference between the two of us now, Sheriff. Come to think of it. The only differences I see, is that nowadays you wear a tin star on your chest and still roam saloons seeking pleasure.” Angel saw the Sheriff's jaw tightened as a bright smile came over Starr's face. “But just so we're clear on this point, I never was a criminal. In making such a statement you would implicate yourself, seeing as how we were in the same line of work up until a few years ago when the star got pinned on you.”
Angel watched with growing alarm as Skylar's hand shifted to her lap. Her eyes were sharp as they studied the Sheriff.
“I believe we should leave things here and resume this conversation at a later date. Sheriff, thank you for your concern, but as you can see, Ms. Henderson is a close friend and I can vouch for her character.” She looked at Starr. “You must be tired after your trip.”
Obviously reluctant, Starr came to her feet and tipped her hat. “Sheriff.”
The sheriff nodded curtly and stepped back so they could move past her. As they left the bar, Angel could still feel the dark-haired Sheriff staring after them.
The clerk smiled broadly as they came to stop at his desk. His eyes roamed appreciatively over Angel and Starr had to bit her tongue not to snap at him. Angel sensing her irritation, gave her a smile. Starr almost smirked at the man's confusion and belated realization when Angel informed the man that they would be sharing the room. When he offered to have Starr luggage brought to the room, Starr quickly declined. She had plans for Angel as soon as they stepped into their room and she didn't want any interruptions.
The trip to their room was fast; thanks to the steel mechanism that Angel called an elevator. During the short trip to their third floor room, Angel had shared her knowledge of how the hotel only recently acquired the steam driven elevator. Starr had listened with half an ear, not because she wasn't interested, but was trying to keep her rolling stomach from expelling its contents. She couldn't help but think what could happen should this steel trap fail and crashed to the ground. It was with obvious relief that Starr stormed out of the elevator when they reached their floor. Chuckling softly, Angel gave Starr a teasing look
“I'd never thought I'd see the day my big, bad gunfighter would cower in fear.”
Starr blushed lightly. “It wasn't fear. It was simply a little anxiety.”
“Well, to me they are one and the same. ” They reached the door to the room at that moment and still chuckling at Starr experience; Angel unlocked the door and stepped in. As the Spanish woman walked deeper into the room, Starr quickly closed the door behind her, turning the key. The sound of the key sliding into place caused Angel to turn quickly. Angel's dark eyes widened as she studied her. Starr dumped her small carryall on the floor and with two wide strides, pulled Angel into her arms. Their mouths met in a hungry kiss. A soft moan slipped from Angel's mouth, seeping into Starr's. The blonde feverishly began to divest Angel of her clothing. When Angels' dress was pushed down her shoulders, Starr growled in frustration at the sight of the camisole.
“Take it off,” Angel ordered. Her face was darkened by passion and her hands were also pulling impatiently at Starr's belt buckle. The moment she had enough wiggle room, she pushed her hand down the front of the dark trousers. Starr inhaled sharply when she felt the soft fingers brushed through her drenched folds. She was going to come if she didn't get Angel to slow down.
She lifted her hands and with a quick jerk ripped the shift, exposing Angel's breasts. At the sight of them, Starr took a deep breath as her eyes caressed them. Angel's fingers stilled as she looked at Starr studying her breasts.
“I told you that you loved them.”
“I remember,” Starr said. She placed her palms on the soft globes and gently kneaded them. Angel began to pop the buttons on Starr's black vest. “I forgot how perfect they were.”
Angel pushed the vest off Starr's shoulders. “Maybe you should reacquaint yourself with them.” She bit her lower lip. “They missed you too.”
Starr bowed her head and blew lightly over the hardened nipples, smiling as they stiffened further. Angel smiled at the delight on Starr's face as she put her hand behind the blonde head pulling Starr closer to her chest.
“Kiss them, querida .” Starr's warm tongue laved at the dark nipples and Angel threw her head back and moaned. “I love how you make love to them.”
Speech became impossible as Starr sucked her nipples deep into her mouth, allowing the hardened tip to brush against the top of her mouth. Angel whimpered at the sensation that shot from her nipple directly to her clit. Every time, since that first time five years ago when Starr made love to her on the sweet-smelling hay in the barn, felt like the first time. The blonde suddenly let go her nipple with an audible smack.
“Help me out of these.”
There was a flurry of arms and legs as they tried to undress each other frantically. Naked they rolled on the bed, each fighting for supremacy. Slightly bigger and much stronger, Starr won out as she pinned Angel body under hers. They shared an intense look and Starr was startled when Angel's eyes shot full of tears.
“Why the tears, my darling?”
Angel turned her face away as long tears streaked down her face. “I was so scared that you would never remember.”
Starr gently rested her chest on Angel's so she could see her face.
“Even if I never would've remembered, I was sure to fall in love with you again.” She lapped the tears up with the tip of her tongue. “I knew there could never be anyone else for me.” The dark eyes warmed. “Let me prove it to you.”
Angel rolled over with a sigh, her body aching pleasantly. In the semi-darkness of the room she could make out Starr's sleeping form. After a very energetic lovemaking session, the gunslinger had begun to fade slowly. Not in the least disturbed by it, Angel had cradled the dozing woman to her heart. Starr was back in her arms and that was all that mattered.
She rolled closed to the sleeping woman and brushed a kiss over the soft lips.
“I love you,” she murmured .
“I love you too,” came the sleepy reply, startling Angel.
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