Vin looked at the sleeping beauty curled up next to him. They had slept through the night. The sun was up, and the rain had stopped. God, he hadn't slept this good in a long time. He softly stroked her long hair, the soft tendrils curling down her back and on his chest. Her body moved slightly with her breathing, stirring desires in him. This woman had a real affect on him.
Andrea moved slightly. What a dream she had. She hadn't felt this good in a long time. As she stirred, she suddenly realized it wasn't a dream. Here she was, stark naked, sleeping next to a man she didn't know, and had made love to him. She wasn't sure she should move. What must he think of her. She looked at her hand as it lay softly on his stomach, feeling it move with his breathing. As she started to stir more, he tightened his grip around her.
"I, I think the storm's over." Andrea whispered and started laughing.
Vin smiled. "Yep. Think so. Andrea, I, well, listen." Vin didn't really know what to say.
Andrea put a finger to his lips. "Nothing needs to be said. Really." With that Andrea wrapped the blanket around her, getting up and went to put her clothes on. Both turning their backs to each other, Vin smiled to himself. She was one hell of a woman and one that required respect. She had given the ultimate that a woman could give, and she had given it to him.
Both finished dressing, and stepped outside to a glorious new day. It's funny, but Andrea thought this was one of the most beautiful days she had ever seen. Of course part of the reason could be this handsome man that she had made love to.
"Oh my God. What day is this? It's Saturday, isn't it. Oh damn. I've got to go. I've got to get back to town." Andrea was panicky. The Judge was due in today, and she didn't want him seeing her riding into town with this man this early in the morning. Besides Vin didn't know who she was and she preferred to keep it that way for now. She didn't want to scare him off. The Judge had a bad habit of doing that, although she sensed Vin wasn't the type of person you could scare off.
Vin noticed her concern. "Andrea, it's all right. You'll be back in town before you know it." Vin was thinking to himself that it was almost as if she was going to get into some kind of trouble. Besides he didn't know a thing about her except that he had seen her several times with Mrs. Travis. They seemed awfully friendly too. Guessed she knew Andrea from somewhere else. All he knew was that this woman was wonderful, loving, and he was real interested in keeping in touch with her, in more ways than one.
As much as Andrea wanted this day to last, she was relieved to ride into town. She had hoped she beat the stage. Well, she would know soon enough. She and Vin got to the livery. Andrea didn't want to waste any time, putting her horse up and cleaning herself up. Vin couldn't put his finger on it, but he sensed there was more to this lady than she was lettin' on. Andrea finished up first, because Vin had helped her with her tack. Neither saw Chris come in to the livery as Andrea turned to Vin.
"Thanks for taking care of my fears." With that Andrea leaned up and slid her arm around his neck, pulling his head down to hers, kissing him deeply. Just as suddenly as she had kissed him, she broke the contact, turned and ran out the door.
She hadn't seen Chris, but as Vin watched her go out the door, he noticed him. Looking slightly embarrassed, Vin turned to take care of Peso. Chris smiled, glad to see his friend finally show an interest in someone. He was beginning to worry about the man.
Chris patted his friend on the back. "I take it you know her more than you let on."
Vin turned to his friend, smiling. "Yeah."
Andrea got the desk clerk to get her tub filled, so she could get her bath. She was glad she had requested a tub in her room. It would save her some time. After getting her bath, dressing, and fixing her hair, she was finishing up when she heard some yell that the stage was coming through. One final look in the mirror, satisfied with her looks, she ran out the door and down the stair. Her prayers had been answered. She had beaten the stage and no one was the better as to what had transpired over night, although she did look slightly flushed in the face. That was caused by the hot water and thinking about Vin while she soaked in the tub.
Mary had seen Andrea come out. Both women walked to where the stage pulled up. The Judge had had a long, hot ride. He was ready for a drink, see his daughter and daughter in law and take a nap. These trips were hard on his aging body, but it had to be done.
He got down off the stage and saw two of his most beautiful women. The third one was his life and love, his wife, which was the other reason he hated about traveling. He missed her a lot.
Andrea ran up to him, hugging and kissing him. "I missed you father."
Judge Travis looked at Andrea. She was too polite. She had been up to something. Well, he had a surprise for her. Although he wasn't too sure she would be happy about it. Sometimes he wondered about her. Hoping one day she would settle down with a nice man, raise a family, be happy. But she had a wild streak in her, very much like someone he used to know, and she couldn't be tamed. In his heart he knew that it had to be the right man for her or it would be the death of her. And he hated to see that spirit being drained.
The Judge hugged both women. Mary needed to get back to the paper, so Andrea walked him to his hotel room. Vin had walked out of the livery, not seeing the initial meeting of Andrea and her father. What he saw was the Judge talking with her at the door to the hotel, her putting her arm in his and going inside. Maybe he was wrong about her after all. Maybe she was one hell of an actress and knew exactly what she was doing. What the hell was she doing with the Judge and walking arm in arm. And she sure looked beautiful. He noticed she had dressed in a beautiful dark brown dress that fit her slight figure just right. Damn. He had felt guilty about what had happened between them, but now, he wasn't so sure. He was sure the hell gonna find out what was going on.
The Judge spent a few hours at the saloon, then took a nap in his room. He and Andrea had planned to meet for dinner. She spent a long time, looking just right for him. She put on a deep red color dress, cut very low in front. The sleeves started down on her shoulders, filtering into lace down to her wrists. The top of the dress was studded in small red jewels dipping down to the waist. The skirt area of the dress started with a deep red color fading into a deep wine at the bottom. Completely satisfied with her looks with her hair in curls, she went to her father's room.
Vin had decided that afternoon to go and talk with Andrea. He didn't like being played a fool. As he came upstairs, the Judge's door opened. He saw both walk out of the Judge's room, and Andrea turn to the Judge. "Darling, you look extremely handsome tonight." With that, Andrea kissed him on the lips.
Vin hadn't been seen so he slipped back down the stairs. Well the little witch. She hops from one bed to the next. Damn, he thought he had satisfied her well enough to last for a little while, but a woman in her profession, well he didn't need to say it. Anyway, it pissed him off real good. Maybe a few drinks would help him feel better.
Andrea, Mary, and Judge Travis had a wonderful dinner. The Judge wouldn't let Andrea know what the surprise was, but he thought she would like it and it would be here on Sunday. After dinner, he asked Mary about the hired guns. He was told they were most likely at the saloon. He talked Andrea into going with him. He wanted the men to meet her so they could kind of watch out for her, since she never listened to him. Andrea wasn't too sure she wanted to go to the saloon, thinking she might come across Vin. With luck, he wouldn't be there, but then again, she would have to tell him about her father.
Vin had been sitting near the back of the saloon somewhat in the shadows when the Judge and Andrea came through the doors. Seeing Chris, Nathan, Ezra, Buck, and JD all sitting at the table, he held Andrea's hand and walked over to them.
"Gentlemen, let me introduce my daughter, Andrea. Andrea Travis." Andrea felt like a kid stealing candy in a candy shop. The looks on their faces was almost too funny. She could see Buck almost slide under the table.
Ezra cleared his throat and started to say something, but when he noted Andrea's face and hand gestures behind the Judge's back, he held his hand out. "It is a pleasure Miss Travis to meet such a beautiful woman."
Andrea almost whispered a "thank you". She didn't want her father to know she had met them.
Just then Vin stood up and walked to the table where the rest of the seven were. Andrea hadn't noticed him, but the Judge seeing him, turned. "Andrea, this is Mr.........," Andrea turned to meet a pair of blue eyes looking like those storm clouds she was so afraid of. Oh no, not Mr. Tanner. He was one of the men her father had hired. Oh God, if he says anything, anything at all that he knows her, her father will be giving her the third degree. You'd think she was still a young girl.
"Miss Travis? You're the Judge's daughter? Son of a b..... " He saw Andrea giving him a pleading look. "Excuse me ma'am, just you look familiar." Judge Travis looked at Andrea, then to Vin, and then back to Andrea. No one said a word. Vin finally excused himself, and left. After about fifteen minutes, Andrea told her father she was tired, and wanted to go back to her room. He walked her back, then went back to the saloon. He didn't question her, but he knew something was wrong after that meeting.
Andrea shut her door, leaned against it, closing her eyes and sighing. "Well, well, Miss Travis. The Judge's daughter." Vin was sitting in a chair as he turned up her lantern.
Andrea about had a heart attack. "Vin, what are you doing in my room. If my father finds out, he'll......."
"Don't you think it would be worse if he found out about some other things? When I saw you comin' out of the Judge's room, I thought you and him were.... Why the hell didn't you tell me who you were, I wouldn't have......"
"Wouldn't have what Mr. Tanner." Andrea was furious too. She started looking around behind her and around on the floor.
Vin couldn't figure out what she was doing, "What the hell are you doing?"
Andrea was flushed. "Just looking to see if anything is different on me now that you found out I'm the Judge's daughter. I'm no different than I was the night you and I stayed at that old cabin. Same skin, same body, same hands, same lips, well you get my point."
"Yeah, but, you're the Judge's daughter. I would've made sure we didn't, weren't, well.."
"Well what Mr. Tanner. It was all right to take me when you thought I was just another woman for your conquest, a woman who was desperate maybe or not quite a decent woman, but now, I'm off limits because of who I am? You egotistical pig headed jack ass........why don't you just go away. Go away and leave me alone." With that Andrea felt the tears welling in her eyes but was bound and determined not to let Vin see her cry.
"Hell Andrea. You're the Judge's daughter. Just would have been more careful and all. I work for him. It's not right. Besides, putting his daughter in a compromising position might just get me hung." He tried to smile at that but the look on Andrea's face was enough to get him killed without a rope. Clearing his throat, he realized he had made a mistake coming into her room, and decided to leave.
As he was walking down the steps, he passed the Judge coming up the stairs. Tipping his hat, with a "sir" he quickly bounded down the stairs. God, what he needed was a drink.
Judge Travis was curious about the man going down the stairs, especially after the look he and Andrea had given to each other in the saloon. He wasn't that old to know there was something going on. Hell, he didn't think she had been in town that long. He hoped she hadn't gotten too friendly with these hired men. But knowing his daughter, well, his surprise might not be welcomed after all.
He started to knock on Andrea's door but decided not too. Andrea had heard the Judge's door and close. She had changed into her nightgown as soon Vin had left, cursing him the entire time. That's the whole reason she didn't want people to know who see was. Already Vin had regretted their night together. Well she hadn't.
She wanted to say goodnight to her father. Knocking on his door, he opened it to her. He sat down on the bed, feeling older than he should. "Judge. Father. I, I just wanted to wish you a good night." Andrea wanted to say more because her heart was hurting.
Judge Travis new something was amiss with his daughter. He motioned her over to him. As she did when she was a child, she sat on the floor, putting her head on his knees. He stroked her hair, thinking of so many times as a little girl, she would sit like this when a storm would come up, so afraid, so upset. Now he just knew she had another type of problem. He wished his wife was here to take care of this one. He wasn't sure he was ready to hear what she might want to tell him. It was funny in a way. No matter how old your children get, they never stop being your children.
Neither said a word. Finally Judge Travis spoke up. "Andrea, I sense you and Mr. Tanner have met before tonight?" Andrea shook her head yes. He sighed. "I take it that you and Mr. Tanner are more than just an acquaintance?" She shook her head yes, again. He was not about to ask the question that was nagging him, because he might hear the answer and then would have to confront the man. "Andrea, look at me. I can't help you with this one. This is one that you and Mr. Tanner will have to work out your selves. And depending on how each one of you feels about the other, well it isn't going to be easy. But let me tell you this. Mr. Tanner is a loner. He seems like a good man, but he is also a hired gun. You have a gentlemen who loves you and has waited for a long time for you to make up your mind."
The Judge felt really old remembering another time, another time with a golden hair woman. "I want to tell you something. Andrea, a long time ago, before your mother, I met a woman, a lot like you. She was full of spirit, full of life. We had a lot of fun together. We thought we loved each other. But it was nothing more than a man and a woman wanting all each could give. If we had stayed together, it would have destroyed both of us. So we parted."
"What happened to her? Do you know? Did mother know?" Andrea had never heard about this woman before and wondered if her father had ever gotten over her.
"Oh, I hear about her from time to time. She lives in Europe. Famous Actress. Yes, when I met your mother, she knew how I loved this woman, and she knows and accepts the fact that I still hold certain feelings for her. But your mother loves me and I love her so much that I hurt. Hurt to know that I could never give my entire self to her."
Andrea starting crying. She wrapped her arms around his neck, holding him tightly. "It hurts so much, father. It hurts so much."
How he hated to tell her the next thing. Of course, maybe this is what she needed to get her mind off of Mr. Tanner. "Andrea, tomorrow, when the stage arrives, Clayton will be getting off of it."
Andrea pulled herself off her father. "Oh no Judge. Tell me he isn't.......Tell me he's not coming here!" The look in his eyes told her what she didn't want to hear. She didn't need him here. She didn't want him here. She felt trapped. "I think I'll go to bed now father. Goodnight."
"Andrea, I'm sorry. He wanted to come. He was worried about you, being so far away, in a strange place. He cares for you." Andrea looked at her father. "I care for him too father, but not enough to spend the rest of my life with him." With that she went back to her room and fell across her bed. "God how much more of a mess am I going to get into?"
Vin walked up to the bar asking for a "gut warmer". Hell, he was going to need more than one. He was either gonna get himself hung here or Tuscosa. At least he would have a chance in Tuscosa.
Chris had seen him walk in. The man had that look. That was when you really wanted to steer clear of him. It took a lot to make Vin mad, but when you did, you had better keep ridin'. And he knew exactly why he was mad. The little lady hadn't told him that she was Judge Travis' daughter. Course, couldn't blame her none. He didn't know what went on between Vin and Andrea but he had a feeling ya wouldn't want to repeat it in church.
Chris leaned on the bar next to his friend. "Well?"
Vin downed the whiskey. "Well what?"
Chris downed his drink. "Well, she had to be somebody's daughter."
Vin smirked. "Yeah, hell, why did she have to be his daughter." Chris just shook his head, slapped his hand on Vin's back, and left the saloon. Vin asked for another drink, and downed that one. "Hell."
Andrea got up the next morning dreading what was about to come about. She had gone outside after lunch to wait for the stage. "God, I wish he would just go away. In fact, I wish both of them would go away. Clayton is just an overbearing cold fish. Vin is just a pig headed, hot blooded man. Damn, I wish I had never met him." But Andrea knew she didn't mean it. Vin had awakened in her a need, a want she had never experienced before. Why couldn't it be Clayton that made her feel this way.
Clayton was anxious to get to Four Corners. Why in the world would Andrea want to visit here. It was dusty and dirty. But he didn't want her out of his site for too long. She was a wild thing and she needing some taming. It was time she settled down. He had waited years for her to make up her mind, and he was bound and determined she would agree to marry him. If he had to marry her here and drag her back home he would. She needed tighter reigns than the Judge was willing to put on her. He was too easy on her.
He saw her leaning against the post with her arms folded in front of her. Not very lady like. He could see a week in this town had already started to affect her. He put on a smile for her as he got off the coach. She dreaded it, but walked over to him, putting her hand out. He took it and kissed her hand.
"Clayton, what a surprise. Father just told me last night you were coming. You really shouldn't have. I haven't been gone that long."
"Andrea, how I missed you. Even two weeks is too long. Watch my bags you oaf! Andrea, is there a decent place in town for me to stay?"
Andrea sighed. She even disliked him more here. She liked this town. She directed him to the hotel and both walked together. Vin came out from the hotel dining room and almost ran into them. Tipping his hat with a "ma'am" he held the door, giving Clayton the once over.
Clayton looked at the rough attired man, turnig to Andrea. "That man is extremely rude and what kind of hotel is this to let that kind of rift raft in it."
Andrea sighed. "Clayton, Mr. Tanner is one of the men father hired to protect the town." Andrea kept watching as Vin walked off.
Clayton showed his disgust on his face. "Well, I hope my darling that you do not associate with that kind. It would be very unbecoming of you."
Trying not to show her temper, Andrea kept her voice in check. "Clayton, out here things are different. The people are different. I like them. They're decent, law abiding people. The town is growing. One day it will be a big town."
Dusting his coat off, Clayton voiced back at Andrea. "Well it's not one fit for you or me. The sooner we can leave the better."
Andrea tried not to let him damper her enthusiasm. "Clayton, I didn't say I was leaving any time soon. In fact, Mary has suggested I take over the telegraph office. I really enjoyed....."
She was quicky shut up by Clayton. "No. No you're not."
Agast, Andrea looked at him. "Excuse me, Clayton, but I don't think I need your permission." The man was getting under her skin already.
But Clayton wasn't paying her any mind. He had his own plans. "Now dear, we can talk later. Let me check my room and make sure it is decent."
Andrea felt like grabbing a handful of dirt and rubbing it all over his suit. She was wondering what in the world she had seen in him.
Vin wondered about this fella. Was he another item she didn't tell him about. Well, he weren't one for games, so the little lady could play them with her beau. He had had enough of her, her soft skin, her wonderful smell, her laugh, her small hands that could bring a man to the brink of forgetfulness. Damn, she had really gotten to him. And he sure as hell didn't like that guy.
Andrea showed Clayton his room. As she got ready to go out the door, he grabbed her and pulled her to him. His lips came down on hers, and as they did, he had her off balance enough to fall on the bed. His hands were moving everywhere.
Meanwhile, Andrea was struggling. He was an extremely strong man. She hadn't expected this. He had never once attempted to go this far. His kisses were cold and lustful. There was no tenderness. With her last once of strength, she shoved him off of her, spitting profanities at him. Then she slapped him.
How dare she hit him, the little trollop. The slap just pissed him off. He put his hand up to slap her in the face, but realized it would show. So he grabbed her by the back of the neck so hard that later bruises would show if she put her hair up.
Clayton was furious. "Listen here Andrea. We have waited long enough. It is high time you settled down. I don't know what's been going on with you, but you seem changed. I'll have a talk with your father about us getting married."
She was bound and determined that he would not due it again. "Clayton, you ever lay a hand on me again or anything else, I will tell my father what you just did. Do I make myself clear? And I'm old enough to make my own decisions about who I will or will not marry. You can just put your ass on the next stage back home." With that Andrea went out the door slamming it as she left.
Clayton lay down on his bed smiling to himself. "Just a minor set back. She is a passionate woman. Damn, now I need to find what favors this little town can offer."
Andrea ran back to her room, tears from shame, hurt, and just plum being mad. "Damn you Clayton. I'll see you burn in hell before I will be willing to be your wife." She didn't like him pawing her. It disgusted her. Well her decision was made. She would take that job at the telegraph office, and the hell with Vin and Clayton. She pulled her hair up off her neck, revealing deep red marks where Clayton had grabbed her. She would have bruises. She would have to be careful and keep her hair down. The Judge would kill the son of a bitch if he saw those. She didn't want to upset her father. This was her fault and she alone needed to take care of it.
Andrea had avoided Clayton all the next day. The Judge had noticed the change in her and realizing Clayton might be the reason, wished the man hadn't come at all. And of course when she told the Judge about her decision about the telegraph office, he wasn't too pleased either. But he knew he could not talk her out of it.
Before she might accidentally confront Clayton in the hallway, Andrea left early one morning for a ride. It was a beautiful morning, with the sunrise painting the skies with golden hues. Just out of town, she pulled her hair back and braided it. No one would see her bruises while she was out riding. She rode and rode until, by accident, she ended up at the shack the she and Vin had stayed in. Somehow it looked different to her now. Kinda lonely like. She got off her horse and walked inside. Standing near the fire place where thought about the time she and Vin and spent the night. She stood there, eyes closed, thinking about that night, the storm, his blue eyes, his hands, his lips.......
"Saw your horse tied up out front and thought I would check on you." Andrea hadn't realized anyone was around.
Andrea knew that voice. How could Vin had ridden up without her hearing him. She didn't want to open her eyes. Ruin the moment. Then she could feel him behind her. His breath hot on her neck. He felt his hand touch the tender bruises on her neck. She had forgotten about them, her mind lost in a stormy sensual night.
"Son of a bitch." Vin all but spit the words out.
Andrea knew what he was talking about. The marks on her neck had turned a deep bluish purple. She had been able to keep her hair fixed so the Judge wouldn't see, but she hadn't thought about it while riding since no one was around.
"Andrea, where did those marks come from. Did that friend of yours do this?" Vin had spun her around, pinning her arms to her sides. He hadn't realized how hard he was holding her. He saw the look in her eyes, first pain, then stubbornness.
"What do you want Mr. Tanner? I thought you were through with me since I became the untouchable Judge's daughter." God, she didn't want to feel this way. His hands felt hot on her arms. She wanted him to hold her, kiss her. She wanted to have his lips on hers, warm, caring, pleasing. She jerked herself out of his grasp. She wanted to cry but she didn't. She wouldn't let him see her cry. This is why she stayed single. Men were a pain in the ass. All they wanted was one thing and keeping it in their pants seemed to pose a problem.
Boy did he look mad. Good. Let him be mad. She wasn't going to tell him a thing except to go to hell. "Mr. Tanner, I'm fine. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get back to town."
Vin watched that stubborn woman walk out the door. He followed her out. As she mounted her horse, Vin reached her, holding onto her leg. "Andrea, look, I'm sorry. You caught me off guard about you being the Judge's daughter. I just wish you had been straight with me up front about the Judge and all. And that man you were with from the stage. Another item you forgot to tell me about? Andrea, putting all that aside, my concern right now is that someone hurt you."
Andrea sat there for a minute. "Vin, I was wrong about not telling you who I was, but you didn't ask my last name, and as I told you, I still am the same person, inside and out. And the other is my business and my business alone. Don't concern yourself with me. Stick to what you were hired for, to protect the town." With that she jerked her reins to one side, turning her horse around and galloped off.
Vin watched her ride off. "Damn, she sure is a hard headed little woman." But then he smiled. He was going to enjoy bantering back and forth with her. She sure was pretty when she was mad too. But what bothered him were those bruises and who that man was from the stage. She may not want his help but he didn't care. He was gonna try and get her to admit how got them. Then he would add a few bruises or more to the fella that did it.
Judge Travis, Clayton, and Andrea all had dinner that night at the hotel. Andrea had tried to get out of it by saying she had a headache, which, in reality, she did. The Judge and Clayton insisted, and not wanting her father to question her any more she relented. Although, after the episode with Clayton, she didn't think she would have an appetite to sit and eat dinner with the man.
Vin, Chris, and Buck had almost finished their meal in the hotel. Vin had seen Andrea walk in. He noticed how beautiful she was all dressed up. He also noted her hair hanging down around the front and back of her neck. Probably to hide them bruises. As he watched her with the Judge and Clayton, he could tell she really wasn't having a good time. In fact, she looked down right miserable. Vin and the others finished and as they walked by Andrea's table, for courtesy, they acknowledged the three still eating, Vin's eyes resting longer on Andrea than she cared for. Clayton noticed it too, along with the Judge. Clayton wasn't going to say a word because he knew Andrea's temper too well, and if he said anything, well, she would explode. But the look the two gave each other, well, Andrea and this unkempt fella seemed to know each other too well. Surely she couldn't find this man attractive, although, Andrea was a little spitfire, and maybe this rough western atmosphere and the men included, sparked her interest. Well, he would have to douse that spark. He wouldn't be made a spectacle due to her little escapades.
Dinner seemed to go on forever, Andrea hardly speaking. After dinner, Clayton suggested a walk, but Andrea refused. The Judge too decided to retire, leaving Clayton to fend for himself. Well, that was fine because the saloon offered more than one diversion. He had found a hot little number to take care of his needs, and he needed them taken care of right now.
Vin and the rest had seen Clayton come into the saloon. Vin had seen him talking with one of the ladies last night, then retire to her room. Damn him. If this was Andrea's beau than at least he would have the courtesy of respecting her and not hoping into someone else's bed. Andrea was warm and loving, and could offer any man all his wants and needs. Hell he hadn't wanted anyone since he had been with her. Although it seemed she was already taken, she didn't seem too happy about it, or concerned about it the night they spent together. Well, maybe he had gotten her wrong, but something was nagging at him. In his heart he knew he wasn't wrong though. He just wished he could get her out of his skin.