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.


Coyote's Magic
(4th in the Romancing the Plains series)
by Craig Caff

I got a vibe on you the first time that I saw you
I need your love and I won't bring no pain
a little birdie told me that you feel the same

("Lovergirl" - Tina Marie)

The back door to the Ambrosia creaked as it slowly opened. Somewhere out behind the saloon an unseen cat meowed in the darkness. A shadowy figure closed the door and walked quietly past the silhouetted shapes of tables till it reached the stairs then ascended them. Each stair squeaked to its own unique sound as the soft noises were magnified in the dead silence of night. Yet there was no stirring from Mosby's room.

The intruder reached the top of the stairs then went to the room Clay Mosby would be sleeping in. The lone figure turned the brass knob and stepped silently into the room.

"You're late, Florie," Mosby remarked as he stood with his back to the woman.

Florie walked across the wooden floor to wrap her arms around Clay's strong body as he stood near the window. The light from the waning moon painted a silver glow onto his naked upper body.

"Did anyone see you?" he asked while still gazing out the window.

"Only that Brandt woman you can't keep your eyes off of, Clay."

Mosby spun around. "What? She saw you?"

Florie smiled as she ran her hands down the sides of Clay's body. "Don't worry. No one saw me."

Mosby grabbed both her hands. "I will not allow you to speak of her. Are we understood?" He tightened his grip around her wrists. "Are we?"

"Yes! I understand," Florie said as she tried to free her hands. "Clay, that hurts."

"She's a proper lady, unlike you, my dear."

If Florie was offended it didn't show. She smiled and moved close to Clay as she began kissing his neck while removing her clothes. She never noticed his look of frustration as she laid on the bed.

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

Early next morning the town was active like most every other day.

Sadie stepped out of the general merchant store and immediately noticed the little boy sitting on the wood platform where the pump sat in the middle of the street. She detoured just slightly on her way back to Twyla's so she speak to him.

"Well, Dewey, are you sitting here watching the girls walk by?"

The young orphan shook his head.

"Oh? You're not," Sadie replied. She noticed a small piece of wood cut in the shape of a gun half sticking out of a torn pocket. "Did Sheriff Dobbs carve that for you, Dewey?"

He looked at his pocket and nodded.

"Save your money and in another ten years, if I'm still alive, you can come visit me down the street," Sadie said in a teasing way.

Dewey looked at her and winked.

Sadie's eyebrows raised. "Well, Mr. Dewey, it's plain to see you've been hanging around Mason Dobbs. She laughed a little as she headed down toward Twyla's.

Dewey's attention was now pulled across the street where three men were talking on the side of the mining supplies building. They stood under the black painted words that read Outfitters underneath Dr. Cleese's windows. Dewey recognized the well-dressed man with the beard and long, dark curls as Mr. Mosby. He recognized the tall man as Deputy Austin Peale and the smaller man in glasses as Dr. Cheese. He thought cheese was a funny name for a person.

Dewey noticed that Mr. Mosby seemed angered as the other two men talked. He reached into the pocket that wasn't torn and pulled out a small harmonica he had stolen from Creel's store the day he got caught taking candy and marbles. Creel couldn't watch him every second since he had customers to tend to. The boy put the harmonica to his lips and began to produce sounds that made no sense. He seemed satisfied with his ability to play and after a minute put the spit-covered instrument back into his pocket. He watched as Mr. Mosby angrily walked down the street toward Mattie's shop. As soon as Mr. Mosby entered the gunsmith shop Dewey sat up straight. He wondered if he was about to get yelled at for something he had done.

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

Call opened the door to the gunsmith shop and paused as he saw Clay Mosby standing across the glass counter from Mattie. He stepped inside.

"Morning, Call," Mattie said with a smile.

"Mattie," he replied.

"Well, Mr. Call," Clay Mosby said. "We were just discussing you."

"That so." Call said as he walked up to the counter. He looked at Mattie. "Guess you're back for good."

Mattie shrugged. "I own my own shop in Miles City. I'm hoping to save enough so I can buy this one."

Call nodded as he looked around. Unbob was filing the side of a newly-built coffin and couldn't be distracted.

"I'm told you caused some trouble in the No.10 last night, Call," Clay said.

Call looked at Mosby then turned to Mattie. "I need two boxes of shells for my .45."

Mattie stared at Call's face. There was a cut on his cheek, just under his eye. "What happened this time, Call? Somebody look at you wrong?" she asked.

"Mr. Call broke a bottle over a man's head," Mosby replied. "It was that Antonio fellow, wasn't it? The one who runs the cock fights on the side of the Dove. Him and another man."

Call stared defiantly at Mosby.

Clay looked at Mattie. "All the man did was make a comment about Gretchen Brandt. Dr. Cleese and Austin just informed me moments ago. Cleese had to stitch the man's head during the middle of the night."

"Where is Little Miss Giggles?" Mattie asked sarcastically as she put two boxes of shells on the counter. "I didn't know she let you out of her sight."

Call dropped some coins on the counter and grabbed the two long, cream colored boxes that read .45 Cal. Colt's Revolver - 20. He stepped closer to Mosby and looked slightly up at him. "He ever says anything about her again he's dead." He stared for a moment then walked out.

Clay sighed and turned to Mattie. "Still interested in Mr. Call, Mattie?"

Mattie didn't answer. She just watched Call leave.

********

Mattie pushed past Clay as she hurried outside to talk to Call. "Call, wait! I'm sorry." Call stopped but didn't turn around. Clay stepped into the doorway to watch. "Call . . . can't we at least have dinner together?" Mattie asked.

"Why?" Call said as he turned his head just a little.

Mattie paused while looking at him. "I'd like to hear what's been happening with you."

"I don't think so, Mattie," he said as he walked up the street.

Clay moved closer to Mattie now. "It's not you, Mattie. He's got it bad for Miss Gretchen Brandt and doesn't know how to deal with it."

**********

Gretchen stood by the window of the dry goods watching Call pass the pump and head down toward the livery. She turned to her sisters. "Why is he fighting it so much?" Her eyes were red.

"We both know that Call feels the same as you, Gretchen," Paige replied as she walked over to hug her sister.

Victoria stood silently by. Her thoughts were torn between the situation concerning Gretchen and Call as well as her own growing feelings for Mr. Clay Mosby. She sometimes would secretly wish that she could trade places with either Gretchen or Paige, so she could be more carefree.

"I have to talk to him," Gretchen said as she wiped her eyes and opened the door. Before Victoria could say anything Gretchen was running down the street.

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

Call had turned and gone between the tonsorial parlor and the livery. He walked to the back corral and leaned onto the fence post. He dropped his chin against his folded arms and stared out at the distant mountains. Despite his best efforts to not get close to Gretchen Brandt, he was far past that.

"Call?"

He turned immediately as he recognized Gretchen's soft voice. He smiled.

"Oh, Call! Your face." Gretchen stepped close to him and put her hand lightly on the cut below his eye. "I heard what happened. Folks are talking about it."

"Ain't their concern," he mumbled.

Gretchen looked him in the eye. "Thank you for defending me, Call."

He looked back. Her green eyes had the most hypnotic affect on him.

"I told you that disgusting Antonio person was bothering me. Let me clean your cut, Call."

"No," he said.

"Will you come have a cup of coffee with me then?" Gretchen asked.

"Not now," he said even though he really wanted to have coffee with her.

Gretchen grew slightly angry. "Call, I've never told you not to drink or fight. That's what men do out here. And Lord knows I don't want a man who wears a three piece suit with a fine pocket watch. It wouldn't hurt you to sit with me and have a cup of coffee."

"Why you been riding me the last few days since we come back from Sand Springs?" he shot back.

Gretchen kicked Call in the leg then folded her arms. "Why are you acting this way?" She turned and angrily hurried back between the building to return to the dry goods. Call turned back to the fence and put his head against the wood posts. He kicked the fence hard.

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

A mere twenty minutes had elapsed since Gretchen and Call argued. She returned to the dry goods in an unusually bad mood. With the constant coming and going of customers in the store Victoria was unable to speak to her sister.

They finally experienced a brief pause as Victoria walked over to Gretchen only to see the door open once more. This time it was Austin Peale. The tall deputy nodded to Victoria as he walked directly to where Gretchen stood.

"I saw what went on between you and Call from inside the sheriff's office," Austin said.

Gretchen just glared at him. "Whatever goes on between Call and myself is none of your business, Deputy Peale."

Austin laughed a little. "My name is Austin."

"Nosy busy body suits you better," she replied as she turned and walked around the counter to grab the feather duster. Paige laughed at her sister's comment.

"That will be quite enough out of you, Gretchen," scolded Victoria.

Austin persisted. "Are you aware that Call spends most every night sleeping at Twyla's?"

"No he doesn't," Gretchen confidently said as she stared angrily at Austin. "Is that the best you can do, deputy?" She began picking up small items on the counter and dusting them.

"Well now, how would you know where he spends his nights?" Austin said. "I mean . . . being a respectable young woman."

Gretchen threw the feather duster on the floor and turned to Austin. "If you've come in here to buy something then buy it and leave. If not, then please leave right now. You're like a jealous old woman."

"Gretchen!" Victoria cried. "What's come over you?"

Gretchen looked around quickly. Spotting something convenient she took hold of a white porcelain wash bowl and raised it above her head. Before Victoria could stop her she hurled it to the floor where it shattered with a loud crash.

"I have had it with people telling me what to do!" She ran to the back of the store and opened the door, then slammed it shut as she ran outside.

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

As one would expect, Victoria Brandt was upset over the behavior of her sister. It was to her relief that she noticed Clay Mosby in the street outside of the hotel. Victoria hurried out to enlist his support. Clay met her as a gentleman would in the presence of the public. She revealed her concern for Gretchen and told Clay her sister was still in the process of paying for the expensive vase she had broken not too long ago. At the rate Gretchen was going, she would be in debt for months now.

Clay handled the situation with all of the polish and control he had exhibited most of his life. Satisfied that he would provide answers that eluded her and with the tantalizing prospect of sharing a table for supper with Clay, Victoria returned to the dry goods feeling somewhat better than she had just moments before.

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

Sometime later in the morning as noon approached, Mason Dobbs stood in front of the livery and pointed to where the Hellbitch was stabled. He winked at Gretchen as she thanked him and walked down to where Call had retreated from the world. Mason motioned for his new shadow, Dewey, to follow him and leave the two of them alone.

"I've been looking all over for you, Call," Gretchen said as she flashed him a warm smile.

Call pushed himself away from the corner of the stall and stood up.

"Call, I'm sorry. I don't want to fight with you," Gretchen said softly.

"Me either," he replied as he stepped closer to her.

"I've been baking. I made us some fried chicken. And I made biscuits. I even made a cobbler. I really did, Call. It's here in this basket. Maybe we could ride someplace just the two of us. It's a nice day for a picnic."

Call couldn't help being pulled into Gretchen's eyes. He nodded and smiled. "I reckon that sounds like a fine idea." Gretchen giggled happily as Call pulled her close to him.

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

Dr. Cleese walked around the back of the mining supplies building toward the stairs. Lunch with Josiah was always enjoyable and he was in a good mood. He paused as he saw Unbob and Paige Brandt sitting on the ground with the young orphan boy Mattie had brought from Miles City. Wondering what they were doing, Cleese passed the stairs and walked over to where the unlikely trio sat.

"Hello, Dr. Cleese," Paige said as she looked up at him and smiled.

"Good afternoon, Miss Brandt. Unbob. What are the three of you doing, if I may ask?"

"Why, playing marbles," Unbob replied as if it was the most obvious thing to say. "Dewey's winning. Miss Paige is real good, too."

"I see," the doctor said. He stood there a moment watching the boy use his thumb to shoot marbles into a circled area they had drawn with a stick in the dirt. "Well, good day," Cleese finally said as he climbed the stairs to his office.

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

The Ambrosia Club was a far cry from the days of Hatton Willows. Yet, Clay Mosby was more than a survivor. He was in all actuality a true conqueror. He had adjusted to being content as he surrounded himself with the smell of tobacco smoke and cheap whiskey.

Now he stood behind the bar thinking about Victoria Brandt. She was a woman to be admired. There existed even the possibility of developing an interesting relationship with her. The physical attraction was there for both of them. However, Victoria's younger sister, Gretchen, continued to be a hindrance. Clay allowed a slight smirk as he thought about Gretchen's temper and how she had a nasty habit of breaking expensive articles. In that respect, she was much like Call. No wonder the two of them seemed drawn to each other.

"Can I buy you a whiskey, amigo?"

Clay looked up. "Hello, Mason. Yes. For once, you can buy me a drink."

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

They had been here once before. The field surrounded by low rolling hills and scattered trees. Victoria and Mosby had interrupted them and ruined the moment. It wouldn't happen on this day. Smiling as bright as the noon day sun, and prettier than a sunset, Gretchen leaned against Call as they both used the shady tree to sit against. Gretchen opened the basket top and handed Call a piece of fried chicken. She pulled out a smaller piece for herself and waited for him to take the first bite.

"You really make all this food, Gretchen?"

She elbowed him in the stomach. "I did, Call. I really did make it all."

"Aw, you little . . ."

"Aaahhh!" Gretchen giggled as Call pulled her close. "No. Your chicken. Call. Try the chicken. I want to know if you like it."

Still holding Gretchen close to him with one arm, Call took a big bite of the fried chicken. He looked at her after a few seconds. Gretchen just stared at him waiting to hear his response.

Call's face soured then he put his hand on his belly. Gretchen's mouth opened.

"Call? Is it that bad?"

He laughed and wrapped both arms around Gretchen. "How come you never told me you can cook so good?"

Gretchen giggled as she wrapped her arms tightly around him. "You really like it, Call?"

"Yep. Really do."

She smiled and laid her head onto his chest. "I broke a wash bowl in the store. I still haven't finished paying for Victoria's vase that I broke. I don't need anything really." Then she looked up at him. "I have you, Call."

"You look real nice in that dress," he mentioned.

"This is the green one I wore last time we were here, Call. Here, let me get you another piece of chicken."

Call nodded as Gretchen reached into the basket and pulled out the biggest piece she could find. "Call? Deputy Peale came in the store and bothered me."

Call sat up some. "Austin? What did he say?"

She shrugged. "He lies and says things to make you look bad. Why won't they just leave us alone, Call? Why do they try to make everything so much more difficult?"

Call didn't have the answer. He thought about how Mattie had made similar comments earlier in the morning. "Just . . . just don't let them bother you, Gretchen."

"I won't, Call." Then she leaned near his ear and whispered, "as long as you're with me I won't."

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

Back in Curtis Wells, Amanda had sent Ike across the street to fetch Mosby back. Luckily for Amanda, Clay was in a decent mood and he didn't mind heading over to the Dove to see what she wanted. Amanda had heard about Mattie winning the bet and how generous Clay had been. Before Mosby had even put both boot heels on the floor Amanda was complaining about not being given a fair chance to buy back the hotel. Clay remained patient and once again informed her if she were willing to pay the taxes and follow his rules, he would sell it back to her. Amanda argued that he was playing favorites with Mattie. Clay had heard enough and returned to his saloon.

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

"Ow! Ow! Ow!" Dewey groaned as he was once again being pulled by the ear. Only this time it was by Mattie. She dragged the young orphan boy down the stairs of the Ambrosia and into the street as she headed for her shop.

"Good afternoon, Mattie," Josiah said.

"Josiah, will you find Sheriff Dobbs and send him over to my shop?"

"Of course," he replied and headed toward the jail.

Dewey had slipped inside Mosby's saloon and crawled under a table. He would stretch his little hand up to steal any coins near the edge until an angry card player nearly pulled his knife on the boy. Clay handled it and now Mattie planned to punish him.

Mason wasted little time in answering Mattie's request. He looked at dewey and dropped to one knee so he would be eye level with the boy. Mason told him a tale of a boy he grew up with back in Concho County, Texas. He explained to Dewey that his friend was the same age as him and stole small things just like Dewey was doing. He told him that his friend began stealing bigger things and one day when he was fourteen he disappeared. He said he was found a week later near a Kiowa village with his head cut off.

Dewey ran and hid under a table while Mattie thanked Mason and accepted his offer to supper.

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

Clay Mosby stepped inside the No.10 Saloon to take an account of the damage Call had done the night before. Besides sending two men to Cleese in the middle of the night to be stitched, there was one broken table and one broken chair. The bartender wanted Call arrested for his part. Mosby just told him to deal with it himself. The bartender grumbled and gave up the idea.

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

"Next time I'll be sure to bake the biscuits longer. And . . . I won't burn the cobbler."

Call leaned his head down to kiss Gretchen's head. "Reckon you were set on getting us out here so quick . . . was real good chicken though."

"Are you disappointed with me, Call?" Gretchen asked as she tilted her head to bring her face close to his.

"Nope."

She smiled and kissed him.

"I guess you could say them biscuits are called coyote biscuits," Call said as he laughed a little.

"Oh, you think that's funny, do you?" she replied with intense eyes and a big smile.

"Yep," he answered while leaning in to lightly kiss her cheek then her neck.

"Well just wait till I make you some son-of-a-gun stew, Mr. Know-It-All. I just might put some rocks and dirt in it," she said as she closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around his neck.

"So you're gonna give me rocks and dirt to eat, are you?" Call said as he playfully bent her across his waist. He raised his hand and brought it down across her behind with not too much force.

Gretchen giggled and twisted her body. "Don't you dare spank me, Call," she said laughing as she reached her hands out to try and tickle him. They rolled slightly in the grass then stopped as they both laughed. Gretchen looked into Call's eyes. "I love you, Call." Then she suddenly put her hand over her mouth as she stared at him to see what he would do. Call tensed up some and lowered his head as he turned away slightly.

"Why won't you say it, Call? I know you feel it too. I do, Call. It's in your eyes." Gretchen's heart sank in her stomach. "Why are you so afraid, Call?"

He tightened his face into a frown. "I ain't afraid."

"You're the bravest man I've ever known." She smiled at him and reached out to take his hand. "I love you, Newt Call."

He shook his head. "Think we best head bac . . ."

"No!" Gretchen forcefully said. "You can't hide behind invisible walls forever, Call. You aren't the only one who's had tragedy or had it tough in life. Folks suffer and they go on."

"Just leave me be," he groaned.

"I won't. I won't leave you be, Call." Gretchen suddenly stood up. "You wanted to know if my legs are as nice as Paige's."

"Don't do this, Gretchen."

Gretchen ignored him. She pulled the hem of her green dress up to her knees. On her left leg there appeared to be a protrusion with the bone. While holding the dress and petticoat up with one hand, she used her other hand and pulled down the cotton stocking on her left leg. Call was shocked to see a scar that went from the front of her calf across her shin. The bone was raised slightly in one spot. "I ran into the street one day when I was little in St. Joseph. I wasn't watching the wagon that came down the street. I was in bed for months before I ever walked again."

"Why are you doing this?" Call asked.

Gretchen pulled the stocking back up and dropped her petticoat and dress. "Because I want you to know this is what we do, Call. We don't retreat and hide ourselves from the world. We get up and fight and we go on."

"Just leave me be!"

Gretchen stomped her foot into the grass and turned around. She bent down and grabbed two pieces of chicken from the basket. "Anything you say, Call!" she angrily said as she threw the chicken at him. Gretchen furiously marched off toward where their horses were grazing not far away.

Call shoved the pieces of chicken off him and stood up. Gretchen paused and turned to look at him. Call quickly lowered his head again.

"Aaaggghhhhh!" she angrily said then hurried to mount Sugar. She climbed into the saddle and clapped heels to ride fast but the horse suddenly spooked. Gretchen's hands were slightly greasy from the chicken and she couldn't hold the reins. "Call!" she screamed as she lost her balance and fell off the horse.

Call stared helplessly by as he watched Gretchen fall to the ground as her head snapped.

"Gretchen! NO!" Call yelled as he rushed across the field to where Gretchen now lay motionless.

Gretchen groaned, then realizing Call was running to her she closed her eyes and pretended to be unconscious.

"Gretchen!" Call yelled as he dropped to his knees and grabbed her shoulders. "Damn you! Wake up!" he begged as he shook her slightly.

"Gretchen! I love you! . . ." Call paused as his eyes widened. He swallowed hard not quite believing what he had just said. With his heart now pounding he looked at her. "I love you, Gretchen," he whispered.

"Oh, Call!" Gretchen excitedly said as she opened her eyes. "I love you, Call."

If Call was angry at her devious action he sure didn't show it. He pulled her close to him and squeezed her just about as tight as he could. "Are you hurt?" he quietly asked.

"I don't think so, Call. I don't care. Nothing matters now except what you said." She looked into his eyes. Her green eyes. "Did you mean what you just said? Did you, Call?"

He swallowed hard again and stared at her. Then he nodded. "I meant it, Gretchen."

For the next hour they never moved. They just held each other close and in their minds relived time and again the most perfect moment.

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

The Lonesome Dove Hotel's dining room was half full with customers having their meals a little later than most folks. Mattie sat across from Mason and was strangely glad she had accepted his offer.

At another table Victoria Brandt sat dining with Clay Mosby.

"You really rode all the way from Texas up here to find Call?" Mattie asked.

"I was searching for my sister's boy for over a year before I trailed him north," Mason said.

Mattie shook her head. "I don't know. The two of you look like kin but you're both different."

"I'll have you know, Miss Shaw, that I am impressed with the fact that you are a gunsmith." Mason scratched his jaw and shook his head. "I've never heard of a lady gunsmith before."

Mattie laughed. "Well I hope you won't hold it against me, Mr. Dobbs. My daddy was a gunsmith and he taught me the trade."

"I fine it to be appealing," Mason replied as he winked at Mattie.

"I should have known it. Dewey picked that up from you. All he does is talk about you. I'm obliged to you for taking an interest in him, sheriff. He needs a man to guide him."

"Do you suppose it would fair enough for us to jump to using first names, Miss Shaw?" Mason asked.

Mattie's eyes brightened a little. "I think I'd like that, Mason."

"Good," he said, "I always did favor the name of Mattie."

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

It was unlikely that neither Call or Gretchen remembered the ride back to town. They walked the horses into the livery and unsaddled them. Call suddenly turned to Gretchen.

"Does it ever hurt . . . your leg?"

"Yes, Call. It hurts sometimes."

He frowned. "You don't limp none."

"No, Call. I worked very hard to walk without limping." She stepped closer to him. "Victoria is the smart one. She's very pretty but she knows a lot about culture and class. Paige is the prettiest one. I'm just the one in the middle."

"No you ain't," Call said as he pulled her against him. "I reckon you're about the prettiest one. Like you fine just the way you are."

"I'm so happy to hear those words from you, Call. So happy. Are you hungry, Call? We could go have supper together."

Call nodded as they walked out of the livery together. There was still daylight in the sky even though the sun was now disappearing behind the distant mountains. They walked toward the Dove with their arms around each other.

Mason Dobbs had just stepped outside the hotel. Mattie was still inside having coffee. Mason laughed a little as he watched the two of them approach.

"I'll wager that was some special picnic you two were on," Mason said as he looked at both of them. He noticed their faces were glowing.

Gretchen looked at Call for a moment then looked at Mason and smiled. "It was." She turned back to Call as he looked at her.

"I'd like to speak to Newt for a minute, Miss Brandt," Mason said.

"I'll go inside and get a table for us, Call," Gretchen said as she kept staring into his eyes.

"That sounds good," he answered as he returned the stare.

Mason waited for Gretchen to separate herself from Call and go into the Dove.

"Something different about you, boy," Mason said. "Something different about the both of you. Well, I was going to tell you I just took supper with Mattie Shaw."

Call just nodded.

"I got me a hunch she had feelings for you one time. Maybe still does. Where does that put you?" Mason asked.

"Mattie's just a friend. Ain't never been nothing more."

"So, you won't begrudge me to see her, Newt?"

"Mattie?" Call said.

"I believe that little gal has caught my eye," Mason replied. "I just want to be sure you don't have a claim on her."

"Only one I got a claim on is Gretchen Brandt," Call said.

******

Gretchen stepped into the Dove feeling like she couldn't be any happier. She paused as she looked around for a table away from folks.

"Well, if it isn't Miss Giggles."

Gretchen turned to see who was speaking. She saw Mattie looking at her. "Excuse me? What did you say?"

Mattie chuckled slightly. "It must be nice to have two sisters doing all your work so you can play oosie goosie with Call."

Gretchen shook her head and rolled her eyes. "You know what, Miss Shaw? You should get together with Deputy Peale. You two are the nosiest two people in this town."

"I don't see . . . oh! Uh, hey, Call," Mattie said.

Call stared at Mattie as he stepped close to Gretchen. Gretchen looked at Call and smiled.

"Ready, Call?" Gretchen asked as she put an arm around his back.

At the table where Mosby sat with Gretchen's older sister, Victoria, that little action did not go unseen. Victoria moved to stand up but Clay put his hand out. "Perhaps this isn't the place . . ."

Call put his arm around Gretchen and headed to the table she pointed at. They paused as they reached Clay and Victoria's table. "Hello, Victoria, dear," Gretchen said as she smiled at her sister. "Isn't it a wonderful evening?"

"Gretchen," Victoria replied, trying to keep her voice down. "What is the matter with you? Have you no shame?"

"Why, Victoria," Gretchen giggled, "you needn't look so ghastly." She looked at Call. "Can I tell her, Call?"

He nodded.

"Call is courting me," Gretchen said loud enough for even Mattie to hear.

"You must be joking!" Clay Mosby replied.

Victoria stared at her younger sister. "We will discuss this matter after supper, Gretchen."

"Of course, Victoria. Don't we always? Come on, Call. Let's sit down."

Clay put his hand on Victoria's arm to offer support and comfort. Victoria just watched as her rebellious and hot tempered sister sat at a corner table with Call. They were both smiling at each other.

Mattie's stomach suddenly soured as she put her coffee cup down and quietly walked out of the Dove.

"Clay, I would prefer this not get around," Victoria finally said.

Amanda stepped over to their table now. She had been close enough to watch everything. "Can I get you two anything else?" Clay waved her away. "I never thought any girl would get to Call," Amanda said as she walked away.

"I'm afraid it's a little too late for that, Victoria," Clay replied. "Your sister made sure everyone heard her. News such as this can hardly be contained."

"Clay?" Victoria stared at Mosby. "Would you . . . help me with this? I want this madness stopped. It would mean a great deal to me, Clay. I'm certain I would be most thankful to you. I don't care how it's done. I don't want to know."

Clay looked at her. Despite her strength as a woman, Victoria Brandt wasn't prepared to deal with the idea of Newt Call courting her sister, Gretchen. He would have to give this some serious thought.

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

"I have to tell Paige. She's the only one who's supported us the whole time. She likes you, Call. We have to find her," Gretchen said as she walked out of the Dove with Call.

Call nodded as he held Gretchen close to him. "Reckon she found us," he said as he saw Paige heading toward them. She had just left visiting Unbob in front of the dry goods.

Gretchen pulled Call's arm and ran with him into the street to meet her sister. "Paige, guess what?"

Paige looked back and forth at both of their smiling faces. Then she opened her mouth and cupped her hand over it. "He said it? Gretchen? Did he say it?"

"He said it, Paige! He told me!" The sisters hugged each other as they shared the joyous moment. Paige hugged Call as the girls giggled happily.

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

Gretchen and Call stood out in the field halfway between the back corral and the church. Thousands of crickets chirped from unseen locations. The sky was full of twinkling stars. Gretchen leaned back against Call and pulled his arms around her waist. "Say it again, Call. Please?"

"I love you, Coyote."

Gretchen giggled. "I think I like that. Now say my name, Call."

Call turned her around to face him. "I love you, Gretchen Brandt."

"I love you, Newt Call," she whispered as she kissed him. "Call? I don't want this night to end. I want to stay with you all night."

"I reckon we could get ourselves in a little trouble doing that," he said as he held her tight.

"It's so hard to wait, Call. I don't want to wait any more." She leaned her head against his head and sighed. "Will you walk me to the store in the morning?"

"Yep."

"Call, let's just stay here awhile. There's so much to talk about. I want to know everything about you. I want to tell you everything about me."

"We can talk another time," he said as he pulled her down into the dry, summer grass. Gretchen giggled until he kissed her again. Then she stopped giggling.

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

The last customer had stumbled out of the Ambrosia. It was after midnight. Clay smoked a cigar as he stood outside his saloon.

"I heard the news," a voice said.

Clay looked to his side as Austin Peale stepped out of the shadows.

"I could just put a bullet in his back, Mosby," Austin replied as he joined him.

Clay looked at Austin as if he were contemplating the idea. "I could care less if Newt Call is spending time with Miss Gretchen Brandt. It means nothing to me. But Miss Victoria has asked my assistance."

"Are you going to kill him?" Austin asked excitedly.

"I . . . I'm not sure. Mr. Call is however, about to suffer more than he bargained for. I can assure you that."

"I want in on this, Mosby," Austin demanded.

"Perhaps there is a way where we can both find satisfaction."

"I'm listening," Austin said.

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

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