“What’s this? A picture o’you?” Calam asked, her heart in her mouth. What am I doing, she asked herself.
“Oh, yes. Not a very good one, I’m sure,” Katie said.
“No,” Calamity agreed without thinking.
“I beg your pardon?” Katie said, and the spell was broken.
“I only meant, you’re far prettier in person,” Calamity said awkwardly.
“Thank you,” Katie said quietly.
“Thank you,” Calamity replied. She waved one arm around. “This cabin that we knew has become a shining castle built for two.” Where’d those fancy words come from? “Me and you.”
Katie nodded, but her head stilled as Calamity stepped closer, raising a shaking hand to tuck a stray tendril of hair behind her ear. “What are you doing?” Katie asked.
“Don’t rightly know,” Calamity replied. She couldn’t look away. Katie’s eyes were so beautiful, and locked on hers. Calamity knew her hand had settled on Katie’s neck, warm beneath her palm, and with a solid pulse beating fast against it. When Katie’s face tilted up, it was only natural to dip lower, and the first brush of their lips was almost accidental.
Calamity froze. She could feel a shiver make its way through Katie, but otherwise she was still, barely a hairs’ breadth away.
A puff of air along her cheek must be Katie breathing, and then someone gasped – maybe her, maybe not – but someone moved, and the resulting kiss was deliberate and solid, a firm press that sent tingles through her whole body.
“Oh,” Calamity managed before Katie was kissing her back, or possibly again, who could tell? Either way it was glorious, far better than she’d imagined. All her senses were screaming, ‘Katie’ – the feel of fingers in her hair, her own hands pulling Katie close, the scent of perfume when she drew a shuddering breath, the taste of something faintly sweet.
“What the hell are we doin’, Calam?” Katie asked, gasping.
“I don’t know,” Calamity replied. “But I ain’t plannin’ on stoppin’ unless…”
“No,” Katie said quickly. “No, don’t stop…”
Neither woman noticed the first horse arrive outside; Bill was so preoccupied with his mission he had opened the door – and his mouth – before he noticed the scene before him.
Realising he’d gone unnoticed, Bill eased back out, sighing.
“Ain’t no competing with that,” he said to himself.
He’d just started walking his horse back towards town when another visitor came hurtling along the path.
“Woah!” Bill said, waving down the rider.
“Bill?” Danny Gilmartin said, squinting across. “You’ve been visitin’ the girls?”
“Yeah, well, kind of,” Bill said. “How ‘bout you?”
“Wanted to talk to Katie,” Danny said, sitting up straighter.
“See how they’re making out?” Bill said, the deliberate double entendre making Danny smirk.
“Somethin’ like that,” Danny replied.
“Well I’d make a decent amount of noise if you’re plannin’ on going any further, “Bill said seriously.
“I’m not sure I’m following you there, Bill,” Danny said, with his ‘I’m-humouring-you’ voice.
“Let’s just say that when I left, they were makin’ out just fine.”
“Okay,” Danny said cautiously.
Bill sighed. “I doubt either of them’d want the knowledge public, Danny, but Calamity has a much better chance of taking Katie to the ball than either you or me. You follow me now?”
Danny looked at him in surprise. “You sure about that, Bill?”
“I know what I saw,” Bill replied.
“You mean you saw…”
“Go check for yourself if you don’t believe me,” Bill said. “But I’d be asking Henry Miller to bring in another actress or two if you’re lookin’ to settle down, Lieutenant.”
Danny looked hard at Bill as though trying to decide whether to believe him or not. “Might just head back to the fort, then,” he said.
“Might be a good idea,” Bill replied. He waited while Danny turned his horse around, and they walked on back towards town together.
“You gonna talk to Henry-”
“-I’ll do it today,” Bill interrupted. “Don’t worry, Lieutenant, there’ll be another actress in town soon enough.”
“Not like Katie,” Danny said wistfully.
“No,” Bill said. “I suppose not.”
“Then again,” Danny said after a few moments’ silence riding, “Calamity Jane is one of a kind as well. Who knows, they might just be made for each other.”
“That might be,” Bill said. “That might just be.”