This is a fan fiction story based on characters from the Lonesome Dove television show, which belongs to Rysher Entertainment and Hallmark. No infringement on copyrights is intended.


Leave Your Guns at the Door
(23rd in the Romancing the Plains series)
by Craig Caff

Put on your best dress baby
And darlin', fix your hair up right
Cause there's a party, honey.

("Out In The Street" - Bruce Springsteen)

Tired and weary from making house calls in the frigid winter afternoon, Dr. Ephraim Cleese dragged himself up the steps into his home. The excited voices of his wife, Victoria, and her youngest sister, Paige, were in heated discussion.

"Have you lost your mind, Paige?!" Victoria said, a hint of irritability in her voice. "Mother and Father would forbid it."

Undaunted, Paige dug firmly in, ready to take her stand. "You couldn't stop Gretchen from marrying Call. Lord, you tried, Victoria. Now, you love him like a younger brother. If I decide to become Red Crow's wife . . ."

"Stop it, Paige! There will be no talk of marrying a savage in this house!" Victoria could be just as undaunted as her two younger sisters if the need arose. Apparently, the need had just risen. "Ever since you and Gretchen were children you have both exhibited a carefree and wilder attitude than I ever showed." She sighed deeply, like one burdened with the weight of the entire world upon her shoulders. She walked up to the youngest Brandt sister and hugged her. "Paige. I love you. Mother and Father are nine hundred miles east of here. It's my responsibility to look after you. Do you really believe that you would be happy married to an Indian?"

Ephraim found himself quietly admiring his Victoria. She was strong, yet gentle. Diligent, yet kindhearted. He felt more fortunate than Call. Victoria was the prized one of the three sisters. Ephraim knew Call would never see it that way.

Paige grabbed the ends of her apron and fiddled with the material as she frowned. "I suppose you're right, Victoria. It was just that . . . no one's ever suggested I become their wife. Are you mad at me?"

Victoria couldn't help but smile. Paige knew how to manipulate her. "No, I'm not mad. Exasperated? Yes." They both giggled.

"Well," Ephraim finally interrupted, "it is quite obvious that Paige is still contemplating the comment of marriage by Mr. Red Crow."

"Oh! Ephraim," Victoria replied. "We didn't hear you come in."

"That was quite obvious, Victoria." He smiled as he kissed her lightly on the cheek. "I have something for you. Here."

Victoria took the round box from her husband.

"Happy Anniversary, Victoria," Dr. Cleese said.

"That's right!" Paige excitedly added. "Today is the 19th. You've been married two months now."

"Go ahead, Victoria," Ephraim urged. "Open it."

Victoria lifted the lid off the box. "Oh, Ephraim. It's beautiful," she remarked, pulling it out of the box. It was an embroidered white hat with decorative pink ribbon and two hat pins.

"Put it on, Victoria!" Paige said.

Victoria placed the hat on her head. Ephraim and Paige both approved and agreed that it looked perfect on Victoria.

"Perhaps you would be inclined to wear your new hat to the dance Saturday night?" Ephraim commented with a smile.

"Dance?" Victoria asked. "Yes. I could wear it, couldn't I, Ephraim?"

"Mr. Mosby has hired musicians all the way from Miles City to celebrate Miss Ashley Jessup's birthday. I also understand her cousin, Miss Olivia Jessup is arriving tomorrow as well," Ephraim replied.

Victoria smiled and looked at Paige. "We're going to a dance, Paige."

**************************************

"Clay Mosby! I declare! How can you think that? Why, haven't you ever heard of that little ol' saying, third time is a charm? I just happen to believe it. Why, one time back in New Orleans, I . . ."

"I get the meaning, Ashley," Clay Mosby politely said, finally sneaking a word in.

"Cousin Olivia will most assuredly be on the stage tomorrow." She folded her arms and smiled. "I have a good feeling about this."

Clay looked around at Ashley Jessup's room. "I see Robert has given you the best room in the hotel. By the looks of it, it would appear as if you've settled in quite comfortably."

Ashley ignored Clay's comment. "Clay? I have a confession to make. Oh, dear me. Foolish girl. Now I've gone and done it." She pouted. It was expected of a woman of her upbringing.

Clay tilted his head slightly. Reading a woman like Miz Ashley Jessup was never a simple task. She was complicated. "Gone and done what?" Clay sat down in the wooden chair and casually crossed his leg, patiently awaiting for her to continue.

"Oh my," Ashley replied, waving her fan in front of her reddened face. "I have let the cat out of the bag, haven't I, Clay?"

Ever the Southern gentleman, Clay simply smiled and said, "whatever it is, my dear, it need never leave this room."

"Oh, Clay. I declare. I knew I could trust you." She giggled. "Very well, Ashley. Be brash and just say it. Clay?" She sat on the bed opposite Clay and crossed her legs so her knee was lightly touching Clay's knee. "Two weeks ago, after that disgusting Mr. Alcott left town and took away your cherished railroad, we had a . . ." she waved her fan quickly, " . . . most delightful occasion up in your room."

Clay's eyes widened at the stirring memory of the lustful event. "Do go on, Miz Ashley."

She reached out and lightly placed her soft, smooth hand on his leg and with deliberate movement, slowly brought it along the inside of his thigh, inching closer toward his manhood, which Ashley noticed growing erect. "I'm a lady, dearest Clay. Must I be coarse and say any more?"

Before Clay could tell her not to say anything else, Ashley suddenly stood up and straddled Clay, sitting on his lap, face to face. "I want you, Clay," she groaned as she began to gyrate on top of Clay's erect manhood. Then, just as suddenly as it had begun, it was over. Ashley stood up, her breasts heaving from excitement. "Not now, Clay. Saturday night. After the dance you've arranged for my birthday. I declare that I will most definitely be filled with excitement all night. You can top it off by filling me with . . ." she paused and boldly let her sapphire blue eyes stare unashamedly at his crotch. "My, Clay! I would almost swear that you have three legs." Ashley leaned over and kissed Clay passionately on the mouth as she let her fingers tease his manhood, to his utter torment.

"You are quite the little wench, Ashley. Do you know that?" Clay's face was red and his heart was still pounding fast as he stared at this sexually attractive woman.

"I do now, Clay Mosby." She looked at his crotch again. "Oh dear. I suppose you can't even walk out of here now, can you?" She was enjoying her power over him. "Perhaps you could help me choose the proper dress to wear to my own birthday party Saturday night, Clay?"

Clay walked over to the wooden dresser and placed his hands in the bowl of cold water. He threw a fair amount onto his face. "My dear Ashley, I can hardly wait until Saturday night. However, I would prefer you remove your clothing this instant, if you get my meaning?"

Ashley smiled and laughed slightly. "Do you remember the Pontalba Buildings that were on Jackson Square? They were built in the gracious style of the French Renaissance. And, the St. Louis Cathedral?"

Clay gazed at Ashley with a confused look, causing her to giggle. "Why are you telling me this?"

"Because I want you to be as hot and lathered as a stallion on Saturday. I want you to devour me, Clay."

Clay swallowed hard and admired the bulge in his trousers. "Why wait?"

"Because I said so." She smiled. "You'll be glad you waited."

Clay's face soured slightly. "You certainly cannot be accused of being boring, Ashley."

*********************************

It was late and it was cold. The icy wind blew through the streets without mercy. Amanda Carpenter shivered as she attempted to convince Austin Peale to join her.

"Maybe you don't remember, Austin. I sure as hell do," Amanda argued. "When Mosby took my hotel I swore I would take this town from him, piece by piece. Saturday night is our chance. It's perfect."

Austin hesitated. Going against Clay Mosby could be suicide if caught.

Amanda could see she was losing him to fear. She thought about possibly dispensing her charms to win his support. Then she changed her mind. She had had enough of being dominated by men. Amanda decided to soften her tone some. She didn't trust Austin completely. There was still the chance that he would panic and betray her.

"I don't need to do this, Amanda. I have what I want," Austin quietly replied. He held his duster close to his body in a useless attempt to stay warm. He just wanted to get back to the jail and climb into his cot.

"Mason Dobbs would be . . . grateful to me, if I told him you paid that phony Pinkerton agent to arrest him." It was Amanda's last opportunity. Her ace in her pocket.

Austin shook his head. "You bitch! I never should have listened to you in the first place. None of our plans ever worked. What makes you think this one will?"

"Because this time everything is in our favor. It's perfect," Amanda whispered in her most enticing voice.

Austin was quiet, except for the chattering of his teeth. "You win. But, step inside the Dove and talk. I hate this cold."

**********************************

Mattie Shaw laid close to Robert Shelby in bed. She was thankful Unbob allowed Dewey to stay with him on nights she spent with Robert in his room.

"The dance may be in honor of Ashley Jessup's birthday," Robert said as his fingers traced Mattie's breasts, "but I think you will surprise everyone when you show up wearing a dress."

Mattie's body tensed. It wasn't something she planned, it just happened.

Robert paused, his fingers resting on her nipple. "Is something wrong, Mattie?"

She pushed his hand away and rolled over. "In case you haven't noticed, Robert, I don't wear dresses."

Robert smiled. "Oh, I've noticed." His eyes feasted on her hips. "I have never seen anyone look as good in pants as you, Mattie."

His remark softened her some. She smiled, even laughing a little. "Well . . . I suppose if you really wanted to see me in a dress I could wear one."

Robert was starting to tell her how much he wanted to see her in a dress. He hesitated, then reached out and pulled her close to him. "Mattie? If you prefer me escorting you to the dance in pants, then I will do it."

Mattie allowed Robert Shelby to draw her next to his body. "Well, let's just wait and see."

****************************

The cold winter wind blew in uninvited when Call opened the door and stepped inside the small house. Some kindling and two decent sized logs he had chopped were tucked under his arm. Gretchen smiled, standing at the stove, watching her husband place the wood in the already-burning fireplace.

"I love being your wife, Call." She said this with a voice of contentment.

Call turned and looked at his wife of two months. He squinted, then laughed, seeing finger prints of flour on her face. "I reckon there ain't nothing more I'd prefer than having you be my wife." He tilted his head. "You see yourself in the mirror, Coyote Girl?"

Gretchen squinted, unaware of the flour on her face as Call unbuckled his holster belt and hung it on the wood peg outside their bedroom door. "Call?" she quizzically replied. She hurried into their bedroom, where the small mirror was sitting on top of the single dresser they owned. "Oh, my goodness! Call, I look a mess!!" she screamed and ran out to the larger room. Her hair had been tied up on top of her head as she worked feverishly to finish the cake she was baking. Strands of long hair had fallen in her face. She just now noticed the mess on her face.

Call laughed as he reached out and pulled his pregnant wife close to him. "I'd say you look just about prettier than any other girl I ever did lay eyes on, Gretchen."

Gretchen giggled as she attempted to clean the smudges of white flour off her cheeks and nose. Call reached behind her head and pulled the hair pin away, allowing her long hair to tumble over her shoulders and nearly touch her breasts.

"I made a cake for you, Call," Gretchen excitedly shared, shaking her loose hair off her face. "Will you have a piece now?"

"Yep," he nodded with a big smile. He sniffed the air. "Smells real good."

Gretchen's face lit up as she hurried to cut two pieces, one for him and one for her. She carried them to the wooden table and sat down, waiting for her husband to taste the cake.

"Is everything packed and ready for morning?" she asked as they both ate the cake.

"We should get an early start," Call said. "It's gonna be cold. You best dress warm . . .?"

Gretchen looked at Call. "Call? What is it? Is something wrong? Is it the cake?"

Call hesitated. "Something crunchy in this cake?"

"No. All I used was sugar and flour and eggs, mostly." She shook her head. "There shouldn't be anything crunchy in it, Call."

Call made a face as he heard the crunch again from chewing. He put his fingers in his mouth and pulled something small off his tongue. He looked at it and smiled. "What's this?"

Gretchen's eyes widened. "It's a piece of eggshell," she groaned. "Call, I'm sorry."

"I thought I busted my tooth," Call replied. "Glad it's just an eggshell." He laughed and Gretchen began laughing as well. "It's still a fine cake, Gretchen," Call assured her.

"It figures, doesn't it?" she said. "You get the piece with the eggshell." She laughed.

Call stood up and lifted Gretchen up into his arms. "I best start taking good care of you. You're gonna have a baby." He carried his wife into the bedroom.

"Anything you say, Call," Gretchen softly replied as she laid her head on his chest.

*********************************

The next morning the stage arrived on time and Miz Olivia Jessup was finally on the stage. Cousin Ashley had told Clay Mosby the third time was a charm and she would arrive on the stage. Now, both Clay and Ashley, as well as Robert Shelby, stood smiling as the kicked-up mud splattered on the worn, wooden sidewalk. Clay stepped into the mud and unlatched the side door nearest the street.

"Olivia! You are truly a sight worth feasting one's eyes on!" he eagerly said as he shook his head. "I was beginning to think you would never show up." He took her extended hand, which was encased in an elbow length glove, black, with white embroidery and ruffles at the end, and proceeded to kiss it.

"Francis Clay Mosby! You rascal. I have waited longer than . . .? Oh? Robert Shelby? My goodness! Whatever are you doing here?"

Clay assisted Olivia to the muddy street as Robert removed his hat and took her other hand, kissing it in a Southern gentlemanly fashion.

"Miz Olivia," Robert sighed as he stared at her. The long, pointy chin. The thin nose. The light green eyes and full, rosy cheeks. He groaned quietly as one burning with desire.

"And, Cousin Ashley," Olivia replied, "this is simply wonderful. All four of us, here, in Montana." She shook her head. "Who would have ever thought it possible?"

As Clay and Robert gathered Olivia's luggage, Ashley took hold of her cousin's arm, pinching it hard enough to get her immediate attention. Olivia looked at Ashley. Ashley smiled but her eyes were daggers. "Olivia, dearest? I think you should know that Clay and I have developed . . . something special. You may be my first cousin on my father, Claude's side, but I will claw your eyes out if you try to take him away from me." Ashley's sapphire blue eyes flared with determination.

Olivia's eyebrows raised. Was this her quiet cousin? Olivia turned quickly and with her dress rustling from all the under things, she hurried after Clay and Robert.

Josiah Peale had just stepped out of the Montana Statesman and noticed Olivia. He stared at her. It was actually a sight worth remembering. Two Southern ladies crossing the muddy street. Olivia wore a turquoise colored dress with fancy black trim. It had an elegant bustle and train, with sumptuous fabric. Olivia's dark hair was pulled back with long ringlets on each side.

Ashley Jessup followed the others, wearing her cream colored dress with dark pink accessories.

****************************************

Call had made a point of being aware of signs Ephraim Cleese had warned him about. He reached out and grabbed hold of Sugar's reins, as he slowed both horses to a trot.

"Suppose it best if we take us a short break, Gretchen. Ephraim said you need to rest more now that you're pregnant."

Gretchen was breathing harder than normal and nodded to her husband. He jumped off the Hellbitch and was at her side, helping her down from Sugar. "I am sort of tired, Call."

"We can turn back. It ain't like the Cap'n is expecting us."

She took a couple of deep breaths and bent over, stretching her back. "No, Call. I'll be find." She winced slightly. "I'm sure Victoria is going through the same experience."

"Victoria ain't out riding around all creation on a horse like you," Call said as he gently helped Gretchen sit against a lone pine.

Gretchen put her hands on her stomach and smiled. "I can't wait for you to hold our first child in your arms, Call."

Call thought about it. It was both frightening and exciting. He smiled and sat next to Gretchen. "I reckon I might fret about dropping the baby."

Gretchen looked at him and smiled warmly. "You won't, Call. Oh?! Did you know Mr. Mosby is having a dance tomorrow night inside the hotel? It's for Miss Jessup's birthday."

Call's face soured. "I heard," he grumbled quietly. Then he smiled. "My guess is you'll be a mite tuckered by the time we get back from Hat Creek."

Gretchen elbowed Call in the side and giggled. "You guess? You mean, you hope! Newt Call? If you think that's going to stop me from wanting to attend the dance . . . well," she blinked her eyelashes at him.

He frowned and scratched the side of his neck. "Guess I knew it was too good to be true." He sighed, looking up at the winter sky. "You ain't about to let me get out of it, are you?"

Gretchen smiled brightly. She leaned over and kissed Call on the lips. "I really want to go, Sweetheart. I really do."

Call gazed at his wife. He nodded. "I reckon that settles that, Coyote Girl."

**************************************

Sheriff Austin Peale glared angrily at his father as he competed with Robert Shelby and Clay Mosby for Olivia Jessup's favor. They're all like a pack of dogs sniffing the one in heat, he thought as he pushed through the doors of the hotel, and out into the cold street.

Austin hadn't noticed Ashley Jessup practically sitting on top of Clay Mosby.

"It's good to see you again, Olivia," Josiah grinned.

"I must say, Mr. Peale," Olivia began, "there were times I thought fondly of you. There are so few gentlemen in these western territories."

Josiah was happy to see Olivia Jessup. He wasn't aware of the jealousy in Robert's eyes.

"Why, Miz Olivia," Robert said, "I do sincerely hope you will save at least one dance for me, tomorrow night? Clay seems to have his hands full with your cousin, Ashley."

Thank you, dear, sweet Robert, Ashley thought as she allowed her slender arm to lightly touch Clay's arm. "I hope you haven't forgotten what I said about tomorrow night, Clay?" Ashley softly whispered in Clay's ear.

He laughed slightly, turning to look at the honey blonde with the dark blue eyes. "No. I find myself struggling to contain myself even as we sit here right now," he quietly whispered back to her.

Ashley let her jeweled hand drop seductively on Clay thigh, causing his crotch to stir. "I declare, Clay. I just can't wait that long," she whispered back. "I want you to take me right now. I want it rough, Clay."

Clay Mosby swallowed hard, aware of the hardening under the table. "And just how do you propose I stand up right now, my dear?"

Ashley thought about crawling under the table to deal with that situation.

Amanda Carpenter found the entire event amusing. Watching from near the kitchen, she observed sexual tones between Clay and Ashley that went unnoticed by Robert and Josiah, who were like two boys wrestling for Olivia's attention. Olivia paid no interest to her willing suitors as she stared at Clay and her cousin, Ashley.

*************************************

"Cap'n!" Pea Eye said. "Two riders." He squinted, the afternoon sun partially blinding him as he moved his head to block the light in his eyes. "I believe it is Newt and his wife, Cap'n."

Captain Woodrow Call stood like a weathered statue as he stared with unflinching eyes at his son and daughter-in-law. "I can see, Pea."

Newt and Gretchen Call rode their horses slowly through the gate, the Hat Creek Cattle Company sign proudly sitting above them. They led their horses off the winding, dirt path and rode across patches of snow and sprouts of new grass until they reached the two, old Texas Rangers.

"Howdy, Pea. Cap'n," Newt said, smiling. "You boys remember my wife, Gretchen?"

"Hello, Captain Call. Pea Eye," Gretchen replied with a friendly smile.

"Newt. Mrs. Call," Pea Eye quietly said, sliding his weathered hat off his head and down to his chest.

"Mag . . . ma'am," Woodrow said, momentarily confusing Gretchen with Newt's mother, Maggie. "Didn't know you were coming," he said, looking at Newt.

"No, Sir, Cap'n. Gretchen wanted to tell you something."

"Could of sent a telegram," the Captain replied.

Both Call and Gretchen dismounted. Gretchen walked up to her father-in-law and hugged him. "I wanted to tell you in person, Captain. I really did."

Woodrow stood awkwardly as Gretchen hugged him. He was neither skilled nor comfortable with hugs, whether it be a woman or a man. "Well, you're here now. Might as well get it said. Can't be standing here all day."

Undaunted by the Captain's words, Gretchen giggled slightly. "Captain Call," she began, with a big smile, "you are going to be a grandfather."

"Gretchen's having a baby," Call added, mostly set on his father not even caring.

"A baby, you say?" Woodrow replied.

"Yes, Captain," Gretchen respectfully answered. "You're going to have a grandson . . . or a granddaughter."

Woodrow looked at both Newt and Gretchen. "I do not profess to know anything about babies. I'm sure some would find that to be a shortcoming."

"The baby isn't due until the end of summer," Gretchen said. "August or September. Call's taking me to St. Joseph in April."

Captain Call looked at Newt. "Missouri? Well . . . might be we just have something to talk about. You two head over there," he said, pointing to the Pickett cabin. "Get some grub. We'll talk later." He slapped his leather work gloves across the side of his thigh. "Come on, Pea. We got work to do." He looked at Gretchen and removed his hat. "Ma'am, we'll see to you and Newt later."

"Captain?" Gretchen interrupted. "I'm your daughter-in-law. Couldn't you please call me Gretchen?"

Woodrow hesitated. "I reckon I could." He nodded slightly to both of them then headed away to work the fence he and Pea Eye had been repairing.

****************************************

Mattie Shaw had gone inside the hotel full of excitement. She had dug through a box of old things up in her room and had found the dress she had worn traveling west with her father. She folded it neatly and carried it into the Dove to show Robert Shelby. Instead, Mattie found Robert's eyeballs hanging out of his head as he stared shamelessly at someone who was obviously a woman of some importance.

Angered, as well as hurt, Mattie retreated back to her gunsmith shop. Robert had spoken sweet things to her during their moments of lust and passion. Now, Mattie wasn't sure if he had only said those things because she had allowed him into her private garden of pleasure.

Solemn and glum, Mattie stared out the window as the door opened. "Hello, Mason. I haven't seen much of you lately."

Dewey came running up to Mason before he could answer Mattie. "Mason! Did you bring me something? Did you, huh?"

Mason Dobbs winked at Mattie. He looked at the young orphan boy. "I'll wager I have something in one of my pockets for you, Dewey." He fumbled around, digging in every pocket except the right one. Dewey squirmed as he impatiently waited. Mason pulled out a small bag and jiggled it.

"Marbles?! You got me marbles?"

"I'd venture to say if you put these on the ground, they just might roll. I prefer putting jaw breakers in my mouth."

"Candy!" Dewey excitedly replied as he thanked Mason and immediately popped a yellow one and a blue one in his little mouth. He ran out the back door then turned and ran back inside. "Guess what, Mason? I killed a rabbit with the slingshot you made me! Got it on the very first try!"

Mason nodded. "Then I'd say you're a man who has himself a deadly shot." He winked at Dewey as the boy grinned happily and ran back outside.

"That was nice of you, Mason," Mattie said, attempting to show a halfhearted smile.

"Now, Miss Shaw. To answer your question, I was out near Cat Creek. Visiting the Hollister family. Old friends." He looked closer at Mattie. "Are you feeling well, Miss Shaw?"

Mattie shrugged, then sighed. "I just have some things that need sorting out. I'll be find."

******************************

Isom Pickett reclined at the table while his wife, Sarah, smiled at Gretchen. "Mrs. Call, you are going to have to eat for two, now that you're carrying a child inside you."

Gretchen paused, wiping her lips with a napkin. "I do have more of an appetite now. Mrs. Pickett? These apple pancakes are delicious. I want to make some for Call after we return home."

Isom smoked his pipe. He looked at Sarah as they both began laughing.

"What?" Call said, eating his pancakes like a hungry dog.

"Mrs. Call?" Isom began, "I hope you can control this rag tag, pile of laundry who needs a haircut." Both Isom and Sarah liked Newt and Gretchen favorably.

"She just cut my hair!" Call complained.

Isom took his hands and rubbed his eyes. "Sarah? Bring me my glasses. My eyes ain't working. I would swear Newt hasn't had scissors to his head in years." Isom and Sarah both laughed.

Gretchen smiled. "We're going to Missouri, come spring."

"Missouri?" Isom replied. "Looks like you finally found a woman to settle down to married life with, Newt."

"Have you two chosen names yet for the baby?" Sarah Pickett asked as she sat down on her husband, Isom's lap.

"Yes, ma'am," Gretchen brightly replied. "If it's a boy, we'll name him after one of the Texas Rangers Call grew up with. If it's a girl, we're naming her after my mother and Call's mother."

Isom Pickett blew smoke above the table. He began laughing and rocking in the chair. "If that don't make a grown man happy. Woodrow Call. Being a granddaddy."

"Where's the rest of the boys, Isom?" Call asked.

"They're up the north range gathering strays."

Woodrow Call stepped inside the open doorway of the Pickett cabin and pointed to Newt. He then pointed outside. "Something I wanna talk to you about." He looked at Gretchen. "You stay here with Sarah. Isom? You come out, too."

Newt Call stood up. Isom Pickett stood up. Gretchen reached out to squeeze her husband's hand as Isom laughed contently and said, "newlyweds."

Newt and Isom stepped outside and followed Woodrow as he walked deliberately for about five to ten seconds then turned around, looking Newt square in the eyes.

Newt Call wrapped his hands around his holster belt and shook his head, clearing the tangles of unkempt hair out of his eyes.

"You got yourself a good woman, Newt," Woodrow began.

Call nodded. "I reckon I do at that, Cap'n."

"A man that got himself a wife and child don't have no business running down outlaws for a living," Woodrow continued. "One day you won't come back. You'll leave a woman with no husband. Child with no father."

Newt's eyes narrowed. He felt his pulse quicken as he tried to hold his tongue, for Gretchen's sake.

"That offer of mine still goes, Newt," the Captain replied, looking at Isom Pickett. Isom smiled, drew his pipe out of his mouth and nodded.

"Offer?" Newt replied.

"Ain't no reason why you and me can't work together. You know horses as good as me. I'd feel better knowing someday you were gonna take over this spread, Newt."

Newt shrugged. "I been doing some side-riding for the stage line."

"Clara Allen supplied us with horses. Good horses. We're crossing different stocks. She rebuilt her home in Ogallala. You pass close enough by there when you take your wife back to Missouri. I want you to stop by Clara's." Woodrow looked at Isom. "She's always favored the boy."

Newt scratched his head and stared at his father. "And then?"

"Look over her stock. She's been breeding again. Pick out as many good horses as she'll sell. Could use you to trail them horses back up here after you get your wife back home. She's welcome to stay here till you return. You'll make top wages. You think on it, hear?"

Newt nodded. "I don't guess you'd begrudge me talking it over with Gretchen?"

Woodrow frowned. "Seems as a man should decide things on his own."

Isom Pickett elbowed Woodrow Call in the side. "Woodrow? Newt's a smart man. He's got sense enough to run it by his wife first. That's the way I always done it."

************************************************

Robert Shelby reached for the brass doorknob just as Mattie opened the door.

"Hello, Mattie."

"Do you want something, Mr. Shelby?"

Robert tilted his head. "Mr?"

Mattie held Dewey's hand. "If you have business, I'm closed. It'll have to wait till . . ."

"What is the matter with you, Mattie?" Robert interrupted.

"Excuse me," she said as she pushed past him. "I'm taking Dewey to eat then we're going to bed."

It suddenly was clear. Mattie must have seen him with Olivia Jessup. "Mattie? Surely you aren't jealous of Olivia Jessup? I haven't seen her in years. She's more Clay's friend."

"Good," Mattie sarcastically replied as she walked into the street heading for the Dove.

Robert watched Mattie leave. He had hoped to spend the night with Mattie. He grumbled and headed for the Ambrosia.

*************************************

The next day was Ashley Jessup's birthday. The Lonesome Dove Hotel had been rearranged on the inside, in preparation for the dance. Ashley made sure her cousin, Olivia, saw her arm looped around Clay Mosby's arm every chance she had. Olivia didn't mind, really. With both Josiah Peale and Robert Shelby pursuing her, there wouldn't be much room for Clay.

The musicians arrived early from Miles City. The roads were clear, though temperatures were cold. There was an excitement in the air.

Robert Shelby tried twice, both times unsuccessfully, to woo Mattie Shaw. She had been hurt and told Robert she just might go to the dance with Mason Dobbs. Robert now had a dilemma. He liked Mason but Mattie was supposedly his woman.

************************************

At Hat Creek, Call was saddling Sugar and the Hellbitch. Captain Call and Isom Pickett joined them. "Why you all fired up on getting back to Curtis Wells, Newt?" Isom asked.

"There's a dance in town tonight," Gretchen excitedly said. "Call promised we could go."

"Good for you, Newt," Sarah Pickett replied as she walked over to bring them some food for the ride home.

Call shrugged. "I ain't much for dancing."

"You think on what I told you," Woodrow Call said, pointing to Newt. "Send a wire."

Gretchen looked at her husband. Call looked back at her. "We'll talk on the ride back."

"Goodbye, Captain Call," Gretchen said, hugging her father-in-law.

It was still uncomfortable for Woodrow, being hugged by a woman. Gretchen reminded him of Newt's mother, Maggie. The best he could do was stiffly pat her shoulder with his hand.

Call and Gretchen mounted up, said their goodbyes, then rode out underneath the Hat Creek sign. Isom turned to the Captain and said, "come on . . . grandpa." He laughed and put his arm around Sarah as they watched the newlyweds ride off.

**************************************

Austin stood in front of the Dove. Amanda stepped outside for a moment. "Amanda," he quietly said, "if this doesn't work . . . or we get caught . . ." He shook his head, not able to even speak about the consequences.

"It'll work, Austin. It has to. You just see to it that you do your part." Amanda turned abruptly and went back inside the hotel.

************************************

It was a simple matter for Call. He knew the ride affected Gretchen more than the last time they visited Hat Creek. It was right after he asked Gretchen to be his wife and she wanted to meet his father. Now, she was pregnant, with their first baby. She looked tired from the long journey and winter's merciless cold. They rested after riding for only an hour.

"What is it you want to talk with me about, Call?" Gretchen leaned against one of the boulders near the river. She smiled as Call joined her.

"Cap'n wants me to partner up with him. Wants us to make a stop in Ogallala when we head back to Missouri. Woman named Clara Allen breeds horses. Gus used to be real sweet on her."

"Gus McCrae?" Gretchen asked. Call had shared his memories of growing up with the Rangers. She was familiar with all the names.

"Yep. I reckon Clara would take me in and adopt me. She tends to be that way."

Gretchen smiled. "Then we should stop there. I would like to meet her." She took hold of his hand and brought it to her lips and kissed it. "Call? I won't tell you what to do. But I lay awake every time you go off chasing bounties. I couldn't bear to lose you. I don't want our son . . . or daughter, to not know their father."

Call shrugged as he looked at the cold waters. "Time was I thought of going back to Texas to raise horses."

"Texas? I'll go with you anywhere you want, Call. Maybe working with your father would be good for us. Good for our children."

Call stared into Gretchen's green eyes. "We could stay where we are."

"I love our home, Call. It's ours." Gretchen moved, catching the bottom of her dress on a jagged piece of rock. It tore the dress.

"Seems like you just tore your dress," Call mentioned.

Gretchen began crying. It was unexpected, coming out of nowhere. "My dress," she moaned as she leaned into Call's chest.

"Ain't worth crying over, Gretchen," Call said as he wrapped his arms around her, pulling and holding her close. "You can mend it simple enough."

"I know, Call."

"Ephraim said you'd tend to act this way. Said it's cause of the baby."

Gretchen nodded. She looked into Call's eyes. Her warm breath began arousing him. She closed her eyes and put her mouth on his mouth, kissing him. "Call," she whispered. "Our baby." The thought made her feel better. She had won the heart and undying love of the only man she had ever fallen in love with and now she was pregnant with his baby.

"That's right," Call quietly replied. "Our baby, Gretchen. We best get on the road if you favor getting back for that dance."

**************************************

The moment Ike opened the doors and Clay Mosby walked Miz Ashley Jessup into the Dove, the musicians began playing Dixie. They played it over and over as Miz Olivia Jessup entered with Josiah Peale as her escort and Robert Shelby, having pleaded with Mattie, followed with the lady gunsmith on his arm.

It was Mattie Shaw who caused the biggest murmur as she entered the hotel wearing a white dress. The heads of men and women alike, turned. No one had ever seen Mattie wear a dress before. She was breathtaking.

The ladies in attendance wore their finest dresses and the men wore their Sunday best. Sheriff Austin Peale stood at the door as he continuously repeated to each man, "check your gun here before entering." Or else, "leave your guns at the door. No weapons allowed inside."

Word had gotten around that it was hands off Clay Mosby tonight. He was to be the exclusive dancing partner of Miz Ashley Jessup. Even her older cousin, Olivia, made a point of not dancing with Curtis Wells' most handsome and eligible bachelor. Ashley's threat played into Olivia's decision, as well.

Unbob Finch, dressed up and appearing somewhat debonair, turned out to be light on his feet and a surprisingly accomplished dancer, to the delight of Curtis Wells' women folk.

"Oh, Clay, dearest," Ashley said, short of breath as she fanned herself with her pink ostrich feather hand fan, "I declare this is the most wonderful birthday I can ever remember."

Clay gazed at her thin arms, encased in white elbow length formal gloves. Her pink gown highlighted her pink cheeks as he stared into her sapphire blue eyes, alive with joy. "Well, good. I would be terribly disappointed if you were to say anything other than that."

Ashley stepped close to Clay and whispered in his ear, "I simply cannot stand it one more moment, Clay. I must have your massive tool inside me or I will die."

Clay felt a pleasurable twinge in his groin as his manhood suddenly awoke. He began breathing at an accelerated rate, knowing once the blood began filling below, there would be no peace until he had satisfied his lustful desire.

"Come up to my room now, Clay, or I will most definitely go mad," Ashley begged as she stared unashamedly at his now bulging crotch. "No one will even notice."

Ashley swished off as she let her hips sway to entice Clay. He was on her heels as the lustful pair mounted the stairs while the dance went on.

****

Before Clay had even shut Ashley Jessup's door she was all over him. Kissing him, fondling him. Groaning loud as Clay walked her to the bed. "Rough, Clay!" she moaned loud, biting his neck. "I want it rough."

Clay Mosby obliged her as he pushed her onto the bed and undid his pants. Ashley's eyes widened as Clay sprang out of his pants and stretching her arms far apart, drove himself roughly up inside her. Ashley groaned as Clay pounded himself furiously inside her tight body, causing Ashley to wince from Clay's abundant blessing.

Ashley nearly ripped Clay's hair out of his scalp as he poured his seed deep inside her. Ashley's chest heaved up and down as she breathed hard. Clay bounced so hard the bed lifted off the floor more than once.

************

No one noticed Amanda Carpenter slip quietly out the back of the kitchen, into the cold, dark street. Folks were either inside the hotel for the dance or else they were huddled in tent town and the No.10. It was to her benefit that she wore her black striped gown with the black elbow length formal gloves. In her hands she held a small black and yellow beaded clutch purse. She hurried around the side of the hotel then crossed the street where she disappeared down the west side of the bank, the side nearest the bath house.

Amanda quietly rapped on the glass window near the door. A small light was flickering inside. The door squeaked as it opened. "Damn it. I almost put a bullet in that pretty chest of yours."

Amanda looked at the man. "Just hurry up. Both of you."

"You're giving the orders, lady," the man said. He grinned as he fixed his eyes on her breasts, puffed up and half exposed from her corset and dress. He nodded toward her chest. "How about a bonus once it's done?"

"How about you do this job right or we all end up dead or in jail?" Amanda replied, pausing as she took a moment to let her eyes travel up and down the man's frame. She suddenly spun around, hearing two horses pass by out in the street. "Turn out that lamp! Hurry!" she ordered.

***

Call and Gretchen rode slowly up the dark street, past the hotel and bank. Gretchen was on the hotel side of the street and Call was on her right flank, looking at her, not noticing the small flicker of light coming from the banking house.

"You sure about this, Coyote Girl?" Call asked his wife.

Gretchen giggled. "I'm sure, Call. Besides, tomorrow is Sunday. We can rest some."

Call nodded as they turned the two horses at the livery and dismounted. Call helped Gretchen down, knowing the long journey had tired her a lot. He wrapped the reins around the hitch rack outside the livery and groaned quietly as he looked down the street where music was coming from. Gretchen turned and smiled at Call as she moved her body with the music. She wrapped her arms around his neck.

"Remember the last dance they had here? It was last spring when we first arrived here in Montana. You weren't very friendly to me, Call." She tilted her head so she could look at him.

"I remember," Call nodded. "You were a pest. You wouldn't leave me alone. You just kept on jabbering until you wore me out." He laughed, thinking back.

"Well, I'm glad I did," she giggled. "Or we might not be married now." She paused for a moment. "Remember we sat up on the roof of the livery, Call? If I wasn't carrying our baby, I would ask you to take me up there now."

Call melted inside. Gretchen knew how to affect him in ways no other woman had ever done before. He loved her so much. He sighed contently as he felt her warm breath on his face.

*********

Ephraim Cleese and his wife, Victoria, stepped out of the Dove for air. Victoria, pregnant and feeling hot, needed the fresh air. Across the street, in the shadows, Amanda felt as if her plan was unraveling.

"I have to get back to . . . !" Amanda started to say. One of the two men grabbed her and forced her into a chair. "What are you doing?!" she angrily said, struggling as the man tied her hands behind her. "Damn you! If you double cross me . . ."

"Shut up!" the man ordered, backhanding her across the mouth.

"You son of a bitch!" she cried, her face tingling from the sting.

"You're lucky we don't kill you." Turning to the other man, he said, "you get that confounded safe open yet?"

"This was my idea," Amanda said. "Don't let them find me here."

***

Austin noticed Clay and Ashley coming down the stairs. He grit his teeth, then looked out into the street. Something's wrong. Amanda should have returned by now, he thought. Now what do I do?

Ephraim and Victoria walked back inside to the dance. Victoria commented that Paige had been asked to dance with at least five different men.

***

"Call? Dance with me, Sweetheart."

"Right here?" Call looked around. They stood near his favorite bench just outside the general merchant.

"I'd rather not go inside there, Call. We didn't have time to stop at home and clean up. All the women inside will be dressed up and I look a mess."

"I reckon you look better than any other girl that's in there, Coyote Girl," Call said.

Gretchen smiled. "Call, you say the nicest things to me. Let's stay out here."

"You sure about that, Gretchen?"

"Yes, Call. The music is loud and no one will see you." Gretchen giggled, taking her husband's hand. "This way I get to listen to the music and dance with you." She smiled brightly as her green eyes shown like twinkling stars.

Call took a deep breath and flinched slightly as he took hold of Gretchen and awkwardly began to move slowly. Gretchen giggled some more and looked at him. "I love you so much, Call."

***

"Just ride out!" Amanda pleaded as the man who tied her now untied her and marched her toward the hotel. "What are you going to do?"

"He's riding out and after I gather all the town's guns that you made easy by telling us no one would be wearing their guns, I'll meet my partner. You'll go with me as a hostage." The man stepped inside the doorway of the Dove and cocked his gun, then fired a shot in the ceiling, causing women to scream in fear as everyone ducked.

"This is a robbery!" the man yelled. He felt confident, knowing only Sheriff Peale had his gun. "Drop it, Sheriff. Or I put a bullet in her head," he said, referring to Amanda.

Austin slowly lifted his gun and dropped it on the floor.

Bam! A shot echoed from the street. The robber arched his belly and fell face forward, hitting the floor hard. Blood was oozing from his back. He was dead.

"What in the . . . ?" Clay Mosby yelled, pushing toward the front. No one had a gun.

Suddenly, three more shots were heard in the night. Bam! . . . Bam! Bam!

Clay Mosby rushed outside, followed by Robert Shelby, Josiah Peale, Austin Peale, and most everyone that was at the dance, whether men or women. A man laid sprawled in the street, right in front of the bank, dead. Two sacks of money flanked his sides. Clay saw Call, gun drawn, shielding his wife, Gretchen, in front of the general store. He turned, hearing boots hitting the cold ground, come from the side of the Dove.

"Mason Dobbs?" Clay said. "What just happened?"

Mason Dobbs ignored Clay and walked slowly toward his nephew, Newt, and his wife, Gretchen. He was unloading two .45 shells. "Newt? You and the Little Coyote all right?"

Call holstered his gun as he held Gretchen close and walked toward his uncle. "We're find, Mason. Seems I might have me a hard time of it trying to outdraw you."

Mason laughed.

"Will one of you tell me what the hell just happened?!" Clay said, raising his voice.

Mason reloaded his Colt. "I'll wager those two boys lying face down were robbing the bank, amigo. There's the proof. Right in front of you." He pointed to the Wells Fargo sacks of money. "Seems someone got wind of your dance and that no one would be packing. You might look into it, amigo." Mason winked at Mosby then walked up to Call and Gretchen.

"Get these bodies off the street," Clay ordered. He looked at Amanda. "And how is it you were with one of these men, Amanda?"

Amanda and Austin shot each other a quick glance. "I . . . heard something, Clay. I went out to get some air and . . . there was a light from the bank."

"Um hmm," Clay replied. "And you just happened to go see what it was?"

"It's true, Clay. Then they grabbed me."

Ashley Jessup placed her hand on Clay's back. "Clay, dearest? Can we get back to my party now? I declare that the adventure is over out here. Your hands can take care of it."

"Of course, my dear, Ashley. Shall we?"

Austin and Zeke set about removing the two bodies from the street as folks returned to the dance. Victoria and Paige went to their sister.

"Are you all right, Gretchen?" Victoria asked.

"Call was with me. I'm fine."

"Are you two coming inside?" Paige asked.

Gretchen turned to Call. "We had a dance." She smiled. "I'm tired, Call. Let's go home, to our house."

Call nodded and held his wife. "That sound good."

Gretchen turned and waved to her sisters and Mason, as Call walked her down to their horses.

"Gretchen! It's late and it's dark," Victoria said. "Stay at our place."

"No thanks, Victoria. I want to be all alone with my husband," Gretchen replied, giggling.

**********************

The dance had ended hours ago. The town was silent, except for the occasional distance barking of a lone dog. Clay Mosby sat in his bedroom pondering Amanda's story and the good fortune of Mason Dobbs dealing with the robber.

"Clay?" Ashley moaned as she wrapped her arms around him from behind and rubbed her firm, jutting breasts against his bare back. "I'm ready for the rest of my birthday present."

Clay turned, grinning. "You understand that you'll have to muffle your screams, Ashley?"

"Then you better be gentle this time, Clay," she replied, dropping her silk robe in a pile bunched around her feet.

Clay lifted her into his arms and climbed onto the bed. "Happy Birthday, Ashley." He leaned over and blew out the candle.

+++++++++++++++++++++ The End +++++++++++++++++++

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