“More than I ever thought possible,” she said. “Sure, I have my problems, but I also have far more good days than bad. And this place is a gold mine without having to lift a shovel.”
“And what happens if the mines start to play out?” Fargo asked. He couldn’t begin to count the number of towns that had boomed and then vanished into dust over the years when the gold or silver ran out. Or the railway passed the town by. Or the water went bad.
“I’ve been watching,” she said, her eyes and expression serious for the first time in the conversation. “If it starts to look like it’s going to dry up, I’ll sell out quickly and Reg and I and a dozen others who came with me from Colorado will move to another city, build another place, and start again.”
“You’ve sure got a good friend in Reg.”
“I sure do,” Anne said. “He took over as ranch foreman after you left. He’s now my hotel manager, the person I trust to run this place. He’s almost my business partner. He designed this place and helped build it. He gets a share of the profits as well.”
“He still loves you, you know.”
Anne looked directly into his eyes. “And I’m still in love with you.”
Someday down the road, if he ever got too old for moving around, Anne might be the one he would come back to. But he wasn’t that old yet, and she knew that.
“So,” Anne said, sipping her wine and sitting back, “what’s this long story that brought you to Placerville?”
He told her everything, including what had happened on the Placerville road yesterday.
She nodded, even though there was worry in her eyes. “Cain is a good man. Very well respected around here. He treats his men well and plays fair. It makes sense he would be your friend. But some of these other mine owners you want to stay clear of.”
“I’d be grateful for any local knowledge I can get,” Fargo said.
Then he leaned forward and lowered his voice just to make sure no one could hear, even though the dining area seemed clear and their table candles were the only ones still burning in the room. “What do you know of Henry Brant?”
Anne looked disgusted at the very mention of the name. “The worst of the worst. And his daughter is as bad as they come as well. I won’t even allow his men to drink or eat in here. He’s known to play poker over at the Benson Saloon. I hear Cain’s son is mixed up with the daughter. Doesn’t seem right to me.”
“I heard that too,” Fargo said.
“So why the hushed tone and the question?” Anne asked.
Fargo told her about his brief meeting with Sarah Brant, and then about the horses and gear that the robbers had been using. “It doesn’t add up completely, but it sure points a finger.”
“And I wouldn’t put it past the Brants to be behind the robbery attempts on Cain’s shipments,” Anne said. Then she too lowered her voice to a whisper. “There are rumors that the Brants’ mine has mostly played out and they’re working underground toward Cain’s tunnels that are still hitting vein. But they’re only rumors and there’s no way of proving it until something happens underground and Brant breaks through into one of Cain’s tunnels.”
Fargo nodded. “It wouldn’t be the first time there’s been a war between mines underground.”
After another half hour of talking business, Anne stood and stretched. “It’s getting late and a lady like me needs her beauty sleep.”
Fargo could feel the disappointment hit his stomach as he stood. He had hoped for another ending to this evening.
Anne smiled at Fargo and pulled him closer to her. He was a good foot taller than she was and she pressed in close and looked up at him, her eyes twinkling. She smelled great and he could feel her ample breasts pressing into him as a reminder of good times in the past.
“To really get my beauty sleep, I could use a
man to tuck me in.”
“I’ll be as
as I can be,” he said.
She eased up on tiptoe to kiss him. “I’m counting on that.”
She took him by the hand and led him through the kitchen to the back staircase. Only a dishwasher was still at work and he didn’t look up as they passed. Her room was an unmarked door at the end of the hallway, about five doors down from his room. She let him in.
A large dresser and mirror filled one wall beside an oversized white bathtub. A huge bed with an ornate headboard was against another wall, and a large closet led off to one side of the dresser. There was also a comfortable-looking reading chair between two corner windows and a stand with a number of books on it beside the chair. Drapes had been pulled across the two windows and the only light in the room came from a lantern turned low on the nightstand.
She had gone from a large sprawling ranch house in Colorado to this room, and yet this room felt as comfortable to him as her house had been. It seemed that anywhere Anne lived, he felt at home.
She locked and bolted the door, then with a rush was in his arms.
“Skye, I can’t tell you how much I’ve thought of you,” she said breathlessly between passionate kisses.
Fargo didn’t lie when he said he had thought about her a lot as well. And right now his body was responding to her as she pressed against him, rubbing up and down with every kiss.
Finally, during one long kiss, he swept her off her feet and carried her to her large feather bed, easing her down onto the beautiful pink satin quilt that covered the sheets. Then he slowly undressed her, kissing every new inch of exposed soft skin until she finally lay there naked and panting.
He stood and began peeling off his clothes, never taking his gaze from her.
Her beauty took his breath away. Her large nipples heaved up and down with every breath, just begging to be kissed again and again. Her stomach was flat and firm, almost like a much younger woman’s would be, but her wider hips showed her longer years. He loved every detail of her, from her soft hair to her tiny feet.
She spread her legs, exposing herself slightly. “You are sure taking your time getting undressed,” she said, her voice a hoarse whisper. She had a look in her eyes of hunger and lust. He remembered that look, that unbridled passion she always expressed toward him. That look alone had kept him thinking about her over the years.
When he shoved his pants down and his hard, thick member sprang free, she couldn’t wait any longer. Before he could kick one leg out of his pants, she sat up on the edge of the bed and grabbed his manhood, licking it and playing with him.
The sensation of her kisses and her warm lips almost knocked him over before he could finally get a leg loose from his britches and get his balance.
Then, suddenly, she stopped and pulled him down on top of her.
With a quick, experienced hand, she directed him inside her moist tunnel.
He filled her up completely and she gasped.
All he wanted to do was lay there for a moment, memorizing the feeling of being inside her. But she would have none of that.
She moved under him, forcing him to move.
He raised himself up on his arms so he wasn’t crushing her and so that he could see her beautiful face in the dim light from the bedside lamp. She had her eyes closed and a pink flush filled every inch of her face and soft skin.
She moved slowly at first as he held himself there, grinding her hips up and down into his, taking him completely one moment, then almost losing him the next.
Finally, he let himself join her movements, and together they slowly picked up speed. The expression on her face gained intensity and her movements became more demanding.
He leaned down and buried his face in her soft brown hair and the smooth skin on her neck as he pushed back against her.
Like a locomotive building up steam, they went faster and faster, never seeming to miss a beat, always in unison, holding each other in all ways.
It felt so perfect, so intense, that there was no holding either of them back and they both reached their peaks in hard, fast, flesh-slapping unison.
Fargo couldn’t remember being so out of breath before. Somehow, he managed to ease up on one elbow to watch Anne gasp for breath as well, her chest heaving up and down, her body still clamped tight around his manhood.
There had been a number of special women in his life, but none like this woman under him now. Everything about her filled him with the desire to stay with her, even though he knew he wouldn’t. But maybe this job with Cain and the miners might last a while, give them some real time together.
Anne opened one eye and squinted up at him. “It’s been a long time. That was better than I remembered it.”
He kissed her and smiled. “Yeah, and a great dessert after a great meal.”
She opened the other eye and stared at him. “Who said anything about dessert there, mister? That was just the appetizer.”
With that, she pushed him over sideways and without losing him inside her, she rode up on top of him, settling down on his manhood like a rider settling into a saddle.
He could feel himself responding, filling her up as he again grew into the task at hand.
“You got yourself a really hungry woman here,” she said, smiling down at him as her long hair framed her face like a beautiful picture. “Let’s work on the main course before we talk about dessert.”
“Just don’t expect a seven-course meal,” he said, smiling at her.
She laughed, then slowly moved on him, up and down, easing herself along his shaft, letting the juices between them flow as she ground down, then lifted up again. “We’ll see about that,” she said, smiling that hungry, loving look he had come to like so much.
Then she picked up speed and all thought of a witty response left his head.
Fargo had just walked out of the hotel when the bullet sang past him, digging its way into the wood of a slender pillar. Behind him a woman in the lobby screamed as a second bullet smashed through the glass of the front door. By this time Fargo was in a crouch with his gun drawn. Even in a town as rough as this one, gunfire on Main Street alarmed everybody.
He got a glimpse of the gunman just before the man disappeared behind the false front of the general store across the street. Fargo should have been easy pickings. But given all the street traffic—wagons, buggies, as well as people—it was probably difficult to kill Fargo without risking killing somebody else.
A small crowd started to form immediately. The hotel lobby was filled with shouting, cursing people who made it sound as though the earth was coming to an end. You’d expect more control from people who lived in a mining town.
But Fargo’s only concern now was getting the gunman. He pushed his way through the people who’d stopped in the middle of the street to see what was going on. He knew he had only a minute or two to find his man. The shooter would have a horse waiting for him. He’d be in the saddle as soon as he worked his way down off the flat roof of the general store.
Fargo was almost across the street and ready to run to the alley that divided the general store from the druggist’s when somebody shouted, “Look out, mister!”
Fargo heard the horse before he saw him. And when he saw him he realized that the gunman wasn’t his only problem. Something had spooked the big animal. No surprise after gunfire and all the calamity in the street. Horses weren’t any different from humans in that respect. When they got scared, their natural instinct was to flee. And that’s what this bucking, whinnying animal was trying to do.
The girl riding the paint was now as spooked as the horse, trying to bring it under control. Fargo moved away from the hooves of the animal so that he was in no danger, but he couldn’t just let the young girl get thrown off and hurt.
Fargo knew a trick a wise Virginian stable owner had once taught him. When you’re dealing with a spooked horse, the fastest and surest way to get it unspooked is to grab the reins and force it to point its head down. Most spooked horses have their heads raised to the sky. Lowering the head calms the animal and takes its attention away from whatever spooked him.
Fargo ran to the girl. She was screaming for help. All her confidence in handling her horse was gone. All that was left was fear. Every time the animal bucked she screamed louder. Fargo’s first instinct had been to shout his instructions to the girl. But he could see she was too panicked to hear him.
He reached up and grabbed the reins himself. He pulled on them firmly and said, “Calm down, boy; calm down.” The girl kept on screaming, which didn’t help a whole hell of a lot.
But after keeping his hand on the reins and repeating, “Calm down, boy,” several times, the paint began to respond enough that Fargo could grab the girl and lower her to the ground while keeping control of the animal.
Fargo patted the horse’s neck and continued speaking to him in a soothing voice. Head lowered, breathing starting to sound normal again, the paint became the trustworthy family horse it usually was.
The onlookers were impressed. He felt many pats on his back and shoulders. The young girl was crying but thanking him over and over. Two or three men offered to buy him a drink.
Fargo’s attention was fixed on the general store across from him. The gunman would be long gone. But he might have left some clues about his identity.
Fargo walked into the general store. The various smells were intoxicating. New denim, leather, licorice, tobacco, flour—no wonder the old ones liked to sit in general stores and play checkers all day.
The small Swede in the rimless glasses behind the counter said, “I seen it all, mister. Them shots somebody took at you, I mean. And I want you to know I didn’t have nothing to do with it. We was workin’ on the roof the last couple days and left a ladder in back. That’s what the sonofabitch used and I want you to know I’m sorry.”
“Good enough.” The Swede had answered Fargo’s first question. No complicity. The gunman had used the roof because of its location directly across from the hotel. And he’d even had a little help, a ladder left innocently against the back of the store. “I guess I’ll check out the roof myself.”