Disclaimers: Xena and company do not belong to me. I wish I had been this creative four years ago, Id be rich. They belong to MCA/Universal, the lucky dogs
This is a work of fan fiction and no infringement is intended.
Subtext: I dont know how to write anything but subtext So if your under age move on. If illegal where you live, move.
Sex: Yeah. Be prepared steamy love scenes ahead.
Alcohol/Drugs: Its a western. What do you think?
Violence: Yup. We got a gunfighter. Were probably going to have a gunfight or two.
Spoilers: One Against An Army, A Day In The Life, The Quill is Mightier and a reoccurring fourth season scene. Yes even I can over use it too<g>.
By T. Novan
As the stage made its way through town and towards the docks, he watched her sleep. She was an incredibly beautiful woman, despite the dark clothing she wore that emphasized the two pearl handled colts in low slung holsters on each hip and the shotgun strapped to her back. Her hat was pulled down over her eyes and her booted feet were propped up on the other side of his seat. The black of her clothing was accented with silver in all the proper places, the band around her hat, the bolo around her neck, the buttons of her shirt. Her gun belt was hand tooled and inlaid with silver, which only served to enhance the appearance of her side arms. Traveling his eyes down her long legs he wasnt surprised to find silver spurs at the heels of her boots.
"Something interesting?" She mumbled at him, never opening her eyes or moving a muscle.
Caught of guard, he felt a blush come to his cheeks. "Ah well no." The words tumbled from his lips.
She slowly brought her hand up and lifted her hat up with the index finger of her left hand. She opened her eyes to reveal the most beautiful blue eyes he had ever seen. She looked at him, hard.
"Then stop staring at me before I rip your eyes out." She said deeply and slowly. She let her hat drop back down over her eyes and closed them again.
He turned his head and watched the world go by from the stagecoach window.
When the stage stopped at the docks. She stretched and sat up. She looked out the window at the steamboat before her and a wicked little grin passed her lips. He pushed the door of the stage open and gestured with his hand. "Ladies first."
"Okay." She said as she grabbed him by the back of his jacket and tossed him off the stage. He landed on the ground in a cloud of dust. He rolled over and watched her climb out of the stage. He didnt know why, but she intrigued him.
She looked down at him and then stuck out her hand. "Sorry about that. I must not be totally awake yet." Her took the offered hand and she pulled him to his feet. "Morgan Delaney." She said as she began dusting him off.
"Huh?" He asked as she swatted some dirt from his backside.
"Morgan Delaney. Thats my name and you are?"
"Brisco. Brisco County Jr." They shook hands as the stage driver tossed their bags to the ground.
"Are you here for the tournament Mr. County?" She asked as she picked up a bag from the ground and handed it to him.
He took the bag and watched as she slung a pair of saddlebags over her shoulder. Oh what he wouldnt give to be a set of saddlebags right now. "No actually Im the security for the game." He hated to admit this to the woman who had just bodily tossed him from the stage. "What about you?"
"Yeah Im here for the game. Hard to pass up an invitation only game with a half million dollar jackpot."
"I guess it would be." He said with a smile that went completely unnoticed by Morgan.
Their attention was drawn to a black carriage that approached fast. The driver reigned the horses and jumped down. He opened the door and two gentlemen climbed out of the coach.
"Excuse me." Morgan said as she headed for the coach.
Brisco took note of the stylized MD on the door. "Oh so youre that Morgan Delaney." He said aloud to himself as he turned on his heels and headed up the plank for the steamboat.
Morgan smiled at the two men as they took up their bags and walked towards her. "So you two ready?" She asked with a grin.
The taller of the two, a huge man with an infectious smile looked to his employer and nodded. "Oh yeah Morgan were ready, but you and I both know that youre the last person who needs a body guard so why the pretense?"
"Henry my friend. Where theres big money theres danger. I just like having the thoughts of you two watching my back."
Before another word could be said another voice cut thought the noise of the passengers as they prepared t board the riverboat. "What do you mean Im not on the list!" She yelled. "Id better be on the list. Check it again."
The purser looked at the pages in his hand and shook his head at the blonde woman who stood before him with her fists clenched in tight balls at her side. "Im sorry Miss Stafford. Youre not on the list. I cant let you board."
"Listen buddy! My boss sent me here to cover this tournament so I know all the arrangements were made in advance. Look again!"
Morgan caught the eye of the poor purser and pointed at the little blonde and then jerked her thumb towards the boat and nodded her head. He gave her a little nod back and took the woman by the arm. "Miss if youll come with me Im sure we can straighten this out."
"Now thats more like it." She said as she went up the boarding plank with the frustrated purser.
Morgan turned her attention back to the two men in front of her. The shorter blonde man smiled at her. "What?" She asked in an exasperated tone that only she could manage.
"Rescuing another fair maiden in distress eh?" He asked with a grin.
"Henry why do you put up with him?" She asked as she addressed the taller man and poked the shorter one in the chest.
"Easy, hes my best friend." Henry said with a chuckle.
"I feel sorry for you." She said with a grin as she readjusted her saddlebags. In reality all three of these people were good friends who thrived on annoying each other.
Behind Morgan someone dropped a box. She turned and as she did, the colt in her right holster cleared leather with a hiss and the sound of the hammer being cocked back was the next thing to be heard. The draw was so fast that neither of the men standing right next to her even saw it happen. When Morgan was sure there was no danger, she eased the hammer down with her thumb and slid the colt back into its holster just as smoothly as she had drawn it.
She turned to her companions and grinned. "Are we ready to go aboard?"
"You go ahead Morgan." Henry stated. "Isaac and I will make sure all of our gear gets aboard. Besides Id prefer not to let the strong box out of my sight."
"Which reminds me. How much?"
"Just like you ordered in your wire fifty thousand." He said quietly.
"Well that should get me started." She grinned and turned on her heels and headed up the plank.
"Whatta woman." Isaac mused as he watched her walk away.
"Forget it." Henry warned as he turned back to the coach. His friend followed on his heels.
"Oh I know shes not interested in me, but that doesnt mean I cant lust after her." Isaac climbed into the carriage and lifted the seat.
"Only until she catches you. Then youre going to find yourself on the business end of that shotgun."
"Never happen, she loves me like a brother." Isaac said as he lifted the strongbox out of the carriage.
"You seem to forget my friend that she killed one of her own brothers." Henry said with a smirk as he took the strong box.
"Thats only a nasty rumor." The shorter man said as he jumped out of the coach.
Morgan entered her stateroom and tossed her saddlebags on the bed. She removed her hat and tossed it across the room. It landed perfectly on a hat rack, spinning around a few times then coming to an easy rest on the peg. She removed the shotgun and stowed it in the chest at the foot of her four poster bed. Then she went to the bathroom and poured water into the wash basin. She scrubbed her face and neck and washed her hands. She would wait until later to bathe, after her trunks were delivered to her cabin. As she washed up she heard a familiar voice in the room next door. She went back into the bedroom area of her cabin and placed her ear to the door that connected the rooms.
"Now this is more like it." The female voice said.
Morgan chuckled to herself when she realized the little blonde from the dock was being put in the room next door. This could be fun. She thought to herself as she dried her hands. As she tossed the towel to the dresser there was a knock on her door. She opened to find the purser from the dock.
"Miss Delaney. I had to put Miss Stafford in your spare room. There just werent any other rooms. When you I just " He began to stammer as he took notice of the guns on her thighs.
She looked at his shirt and squinted at his nameplate. "Its okay, Charlie. You did the right thing." She reached into her front pocket and produced a money clip thick with bills. She peeled of a five and gave it to him. "Make sure she gets anything she needs."
"He looked at the five and swallowed hard. "Yes maam. Is she a friend of yours?"
"She will be." Morgan said with a grin. "Tell me when does the first round start?
"Not until eight tomorrow morning Miss Delaney. Tonight is just dinner, drinks and drawing table lots."
"How many tables?"
"Ten tables, five players per table"
"Fifty of us huh? Well that should thin out pretty quickly."
"Yes maam. I dont know why some of these fellas even bother with you in the game. They gotta know they cant win."
She smiled at him. "Youre sweet Charlie but I can lose just a easily as they can."
"When was the last time you lost a poker game Miss Delaney?"
"Well " She chewed the inside of her mouth.
"Yeah I thought so. Well Id better be gettin back to work."
"You do that Charlie and dont forget what I said about my neighbor over there."
"Oh I wont Miss Delaney." Charlie smiled and went off down the hall.
Morgan was about to her return to her room when the door next to her room opened. She waited until the little blonde came into the hall. Morgan had to get a good look at her. The woman turned right into Morgan.
"Im sorry." She said as Morgans arms wrapped around her to keep her from falling.
Their eyes met. There they were those beautiful green eyes. Morgan smiled. It was her, the one that invaded her dreams every night. "Its okay. Are you hurt?" Morgan asked as she released the woman.
"No Im fine. Thanks. Looks like were going to be neighbors." She offered Morgan her hand. "My names "
"Gabrielle " Morgan said softly as she took her hand.
Gabrielle looked at the woman who whispered her name. She seemed to have a far off look in her eyes as she said it. The reporter couldnt help but be mesmerized by the blue of this womans eyes. "Ah yes Gabrielle Stafford. Have we met?"
Morgan was pulled back by the last question. The memories of her dreamscape would have to wait. "No we havent." Morgan said honestly with just a hint of embarrassment in her voice. "You work for a newspaper that I own." She stated as matter of factly trying to clear her mind.
"Youre Morgan Delaney?"
"Yes." She purred.
"I always thought you were a man."
"Well as you can see Im not. What would make you think that anyhow?"
"Well youre just so damned elusive. No one ever sees you. Id love to do a story about you."
"Miss Stafford Im sure you can find more interesting things to write about."
"Funny, I cant think of any at the moment. Are you playing in the tournament?"
"Yeah I am."
"Its the perfect angle. Elusive millionaire Morgan Delaney comes out of seclusion to play in a high stakes poker tournament. Its perfect. Please?"
There was something about that please that struck deep in Morgans soul. She smiled at the shorter woman. "All right, but you have to have dinner with me tonight."
"I would love that. Itll give me a chance to get some background information."
"Fine Ill see you tonight then." Morgan was feeling a real need to be away from this woman as quickly as possible. She was beginning to shake inside, she knew soon it would work its way to the outside as well. She stepped back to allow Gabrielle to get past her in the narrow hallway. They smiled at each other as Gabrielle slipped past. Morgan watched her walk away. She gave a low whistle and went back into her room.
She was just about to lie down when there was another knock on the door. "Morgan its Henry. Ive got your trunks." He yelled through the door.
"Come in its open." She said as she lay back on the bed, her feet still planted on the floor.
Henry pushed the door open and carried one trunk on his back and drug the other into the room. He sat the first on down with a thud and pushed the second up next to it. "You all right?" He asked as he stood up and stretched.
"Yeah Im fine. It was just a long trip. Ive got a hell of a headache."
"Why dont you take a bath and a nap before dinner?" He said leaning against the trunks.
"You know," She sat up and ran her hands over the bedspread. "Thats a good idea."
"Yeah a nice hot bath and a nap in a soft bed " He yawned. "You know I think Ill try it too." He walked towards the door. "Hey you want to join us for dinner tonight?"
"Um thanks but Ive got plans for dinner tonight. How bout a drink after."
"A drink it is then. See you tonight." He left the room letting the door shut gently behind him.
Morgan sat in the tub of hot water and closed her eyes. She felt herself slipping into sleep, but didnt resist it.
She recognized the scene. She had dreamt it at least a thousand times. A barn. It was evening from the looks of the shadows. She knelt down next to her companion and prepared medicine for her sick friend.
"You know," Gabrielle began. "Its occurred to me that this is just a clever diversion to make me forget about my boots." She began coughing and wheezing. "My chest feels so heavy " She gasped.
Morgan could see herself reach forward and put her fingers in the dark sticky substance and then brush her fingers over the blondes lips. The worried look on her brow made her heart jump even in the dream state.
"What?" Gabrielle asked.
"I just ran out of time didnt I?
Morgan could see herself wipe the blood away and kiss the woman on the forehead. It was her, but yet it wasnt. The clothes were different, very different. No guns, but the nicest looking sword she had ever seen. Then there was her companion in the dream. The blond who looked exactly like Gabrielle Stafford and even shared the same first name. Then the scene shifted
Sitting on the edge of a stream, together. Laughing and talking. Looking deeply in those green eyes. Absorbing the warmth of that smile.
"Another ones fallen for you." Gabrielle said.
"Yeah." She replied with a hint of disgust.
"Why does this always happen?"
"Its the blue eyes, the leather. Some guys just love leather."
The dreams came to an abrupt halt as Morgan found herself fighting for air. She had slid down into the water and it woke her as it slipped into her lungs. She sputtered as she came up for air. She wiped the water from her eyes and then pushed it from her hair trying to regain her concentration.
"This is bad, very bad. How in the hell am I supposed to concentrate on the game now." She sighed as she settled back in the tub. "Damn."
After her bath she threw on a robe and went back into her bedroom. She picked out her clothes for the evening and then pulled back the covers on the bed. She took the robe off and climbed into the overstuffed feather bed. She settled down and closed her eyes hoping the dreams would return. They didnt.
When Morgan awoke she could hear the engines and the paddlewheel of the boat. She knew they were underway. She got up and put her robe on and moved to the window. The sun was starting to set and she could feel a slight breeze coming off the river. A cloak she would need to wear a cloak to dinner tonight. She smiled.
As she appraised her appearance in the mirror she wondered if she should leave her hair loose tonight. Generally she kept it pulled back into a braid or a simple ponytail, but in all her dreams so far it had been loose around her shoulders. Maybe, just maybe. She looked at her attire, properly dressed for dinner in dark trousers and a short black jacket, white shirt and black ascot with a gray vest. The pearl stickpin in the ascot was a nice touch. She pulled her pocket watch from her vest pocket and checked the time, half an hour to dinner. She wondered if she should go next door and escort her companion to dinner or if she should just meet her in the dining room. She clicked the watch shut and replaced it in her pocket. Shed leave her hair loose tonight and meet her companion in the dining room.
She picked up her gun belt and fastened it into place. She tied the leather thongs around her thighs and made the final adjustments. She picked her hat up and started to put it on then she sat it back down, no sense in covering up the hair. She grabbed the long black cloak from the bed and placed it over her shoulders.
She left her cabin and headed for the dining room. On the way she met one Mr. Brisco County. "Good evening Mr. County."
"Good evening Miss Delaney. My dont you look "
She cut him off with a wave of her hand. "Save it for someone whos buying Brisco."
"So were on a first name basis now are we?" He asked as they continued to walk toward the dining room.
"Oh I dont see why not. Friends should be on a first name basis and well never be more than friends; so we may as well start there."
"Gee Morgan you really know how to hurt a guy. You didnt even get to know me first."
"Its not you Brisco. I just know what I want. Youre not it." She said as they stepped into the dining room. The maitred arrived very quickly. Morgans notoriety had arrived long before she did and there wasnt a staff member on board who didnt recognize her.
"Miss Delaney, good evening. Table for two?"
"Yes actually, although Mr. County and I arent dining together. Im expecting another guest." She turned to Brisco and smiled. "Might I suggest you join Henry and Isaac." She said as she pointed to her two companions. "I think youll like them and find that you have a lot in common too."
"Yeah. Thanks Ill do that."
She tried to hide the smile as Brisco walked over to the table where her friends were seated. As she followed the maitred to her own table; she removed her cloak and took a seat facing the entrance. She looked at her pocket watch again. As she snapped it shut she realized she was just being impatient and tried to relax. This only accomplished two things. She discovered that when bored and nervous she drummed her fingers on the table and second, while trying to stop the first action she spilled a glass of water.
Of course, it was while three waiters were scurrying around trying to get the table cleaned up, that Gabrielle chose to make her entrance. Morgan was brushing the water from the lap of her trousers when she looked up to see Gabrielle smiling down at her.
Morgan couldnt believe it. She was simply beautiful. Her hair was pulled up exposing her neck and the dress she chose was a green satin number that was pulled off the shoulders. Funny Morgan thought How her shoulders and neck meet like that. She realized two more things. First she was staring and second she was being rude. She stood up and dropped her napkin to the table.
"Im sorry I had a little accident." She said with a slight smile.
Gabrielle smiled back. "Yeah I can see that."
"Please have a seat." Morgan motioned to the chair across form her own. Gabrielle sat down and waited patiently while the waiters reset the table. Morgan sat back down and watched her dining companion.
Once the table was reset. The waiter brought a bottle of wine to their table. He showed the label to Morgan who just nodded. He opened the bottle and poured a bit for Morgan who sipped it carefully giving it her full attention. "Very good." She complimented him and he poured for both the women.
Gabrielle sipped the wine and smiled at Morgan. "Excellent choice."
"Thank you. I hoped you wouldnt mind."
"Not at all." Gabrielle leaned forward and rested her elbows on the table and folded her hands together, resting her chin on top of them. "So tell me what brings the famous Morgan Delaney out of seclusion for a mere poker game?"
"For starters Im not in seclusion. I just travel a lot and this is no mere poker game. Its invitation only and has a half million dollar jackpot."
"Dont try and convince me youre in it for the money. You already have enough of that to last you through three lifetimes. As I understand it, being a blockade runner during the war was quite profitable."
"Seems to me Miss Stafford that you seem to know quite a lot about me already." Morgan leaned back in her chair.
"Ive done some research yes. Asked a few questions. Talked to a few people. Please call me Gabrielle." She leaned back and took another drink of her wine.
Morgan shifted in her chair and leaned against the right arm, crossing her long legs. "So what else did you find out about me Gabrielle?" She loved the way that sounded as it rolled off her tongue.
"Well for starters, anyone who you call friend is very loyal and trustworthy."
"And anyone you call an enemy is more than willing to see you hung or worse."
Morgan smiled. She knew there were several people who fit into this category.
Gabrielle continued. "There seems to be a healthy mix of both aboard."
"Yes it could get interesting before the trip is over." Morgan reached for her glass. She brought it to her lips and drank again, never taking her eyes off the reporter. She put her glass down and smiled.
"What is it?" Gabrielle asked. "Youve had this silly grin plastered on your face since I arrived. Do I amuse you?"
"No its not that. You remind me of someone."
"Im not sure."
"Its a long story."
"Youll have to tell me sometime."
Before Morgan could respond a tall man approached their table and leaned on it. He looked at Gabrielle and then turned his attention to Morgan. He sneered at her as he spoke. "Hello bitch." Morgan smiled as she shifted in her chair again and rested her hands on the table.
"Hello Duncan. If you dont mind Im trying to have dinner here." She was being more than polite considering the salutation she had gotten.
"I dont give a damn what youre trying to do. I told you that if I ever saw you again Id "
His words were cut off by the flick of her wrist. She was on her feet and the derringer in the palm of her left hand was pressed firmly against his throat. "I dont give a damn that you dont give a damn. This is not the time or the place." She growled at him. "If you want a piece of me you can wait until we dock in New Orleans. Ill be more than happy to oblige you there."
Before any more words could be exchanged, Henry, Isaac and Brisco were at the table. Brisco and Henry grabbed the man by the arms. Isaac positioned himself between Gabrielle and the possible fight that could erupt. Duncan looked at the men who held him and then back to Morgan. "New Orleans it is." He growled back as he shook off the men who held him. He straightened his clothes and left the table.
"You okay?" Henry asked as he watched Duncan walk away.
"Im fine guys thanks." Morgan took a deep breath and pushed the derringer back up her sleeve. The click of the mechanism told her is was secure once again. She tugged on her jacket and sat back down.
Henry and Isaac nodded at her and returned to their table. Brisco however leaned on the table and glared at Morgan. "You wanna tell me what that was all about?"
"Its personal Brisco. An old grudge."
"Anyone else around here with an old grudge I should know about?"
Gabrielle giggled. Brisco turned to her. "Yes?"
"Only about half the passenger list." The reporter replied with a smile on her lips.
"Oh well thats just wonderful." He turned back to Morgan. "You coulda warned me you know?"
"Im sorry Brisco. I really am. As Miss Stafford said I have more than a few enemies aboard. Its a good thing I have a few friends too." She gave him a crooked little smile.
"Oh this is going to be a long trip." Brisco mumbled as he walked away from the table.
"So," Gabrielle started. "I guess he falls into the Or worse" category."
"I guess he does."
"Another long story?"
"No not particularly. He thinks I killed his brother." Morgan said as she took a sip of her wine.
"Did you?" The reporter asked flatly, causing Morgan to choke on her wine.
"No." She said as she cleared her throat. "I am innocent of that particular charge."
"You have killed though havent you?" Gabrielle asked leaning forward again.
"Yes. Yes I have." Morgan wasnt proud of the statement.
"Whats it like?"
"It changes everything everything." Morgan said quietly.
They ate their dinner in relative silence. Gabrielle knew she had blown it with that last question and now she had to turn the conversation around. She slowly took a bite of her salad and considered what she had to do. "So why poker?" She asked.
"Oh I dont know theres something about a game of chance that I cant pass up. Its the challenge of the unknown."
"Is that why you travel so much? The challenge of the unknown?"
"Yeah I guess so in a way. I just hate to stay in one place for too long. Makes me cranky."
Gabrielle smiled at the cranky comment. "Id hate to see you cranky. Ive seen what you do when youre being polite. By the way thats a nifty little gadget you have up your sleeve."
"Thanks. I like to be prepared."
"You seem awfully well prepared to me." She said with a smile.
"You have to be. It comes with the job."
As they finished dinner, Charlie approached the table. "Miss Delaney. Ive been asked to inform you that the reception for the tournament will begin in about an hour."
"Thank you Charlie. Youre a good man." She fished a coin from her pocket and tossed it to him. He smiled at the generous tip and left with a slight bow. "Well it seems I have an hour to kill. Care to take a walk on deck?" She stood and draped her cloak over her arm.
"Sure." Gabrielle accepted the offer of Morgans hand to rise from the table.
As they left the dining room, Morgan could feel someone watching them. It was the eyes of an enemy she was sure of that.
Out on deck, there was a soft but chilly breeze blowing. She placed the cloak around Gabrielles shoulders. "Thank you." The reporter said softly as she leaned against the rail.
"Just another small part of my plan." Morgan said as she pulled a cigar case from her jacket and prepared a small brown cigar for smoking. Gabrielle turned her attention back to the taller woman and watched intently.
"Youre a very unusual person, Morgan Delaney."
Morgan leaned against the rail and placed the cigar between her lips, she struck a match on the rail and lit it. Dropping the match into the water below she slowly turned to Gabrielle and took a deep drag of the cigar, before speaking. "What makes you say that?" She let the smoke exit her lungs slowly through her nose and mouth.
"Well look at you. Youre quite the enigma and if I didnt know better Id swear you are trying to seduce me."
"What if I said I am?"
"An enigma or trying to seduce me?" Gabrielle turned back to watch at the shore pass by.
"Well I dont know about the enigma part, but the seduction part now thats a different story all together." Morgan turned to look over the rail as well. She took the cigar from her lips and let it dangle between her fingers, knocking the ashes off with the tip of her finger. "Are you shocked?"
"Do I seem shocked?"
"No you dont. Mind if I ask why?"
"You wouldnt believe me."
"Try me." She said as she took another drag off her cigar.
"We know each other already. From another time and another place, but we know each other."
Morgan felt her heart skip a beat as she tried to keep her composure intact. "What makes you say that?" She flicked the ashes from her cigar again.
"All my life Ive had these dreams " Gabrielles voice faltered. She turned to face Morgan. "When I met you in the hall today. I knew immediately you were the one from my dreams."
"Tell me about them your dreams."
"My most vivid one is "
The snow blowing around them. Soldiers everywhere. Roman soldiers. She turns her head slowly as she hears her name
She turns to see the battered body on the cross. She tries to find to words the comfort her love in their final moment
"Youre the best thing in my life " Xena continues with a slight smile even as the soldiers continue working around them.
"I love you Xena "
Morgan stiffened and flicked more ashes. "Xena? So that was my name. Dont like it." She said before taking another drag without looking over at the reporter.
"What do you mean, that was your name? Have you been "
Morgan cut her off. "Yup, but I never heard my name."
"This is almost too weird." Gabrielle turned to Morgan.
Morgan turned her head to look into those beautiful green eyes. "I consider that an understatement. I thought I was losing my mind and then two weeks ago when I saw you at the paper "
Gabrielle smiled as the realization hit her. "Oh so thats how I drew this job. Thats why I was sent to cover the tournament."
"Guilty. I had to see you. Get to know you. Maybe spend sometime with you. Youve been invading my dreams almost every night for as long as I can remember. For the longest time I convinced myself you werent real and then " She stopped and turned back to the water. "Im sorry. I shouldnt have brought you here like this. It was wrong." She gave the cigar a hard flick from in between her thumb and forefinger and sent it into the water below. "If you want to get off in New Orleans Ill understand."
Gabrielle giggled slightly. "And give up a free trip? Are you crazy?" She placed her hand on Morgans arm and gave it a gentle squeeze. "Besides I called off my wedding for you. Dont think Im going to give up that easily."
"I was suppose to be married last year. I thought I loved him. I really did, but when the dreams didnt stop as a matter of fact they got worse. I realized I had made a huge mistake and called off the wedding. I knew I didnt love him. I couldnt go through with it. I knew you were out here somewhere."
"So do you think you love me?"
"I dont know, but you do seem to be the answer in my dreams."
Morgan turned to Gabrielle and leaned in, giving the woman a soft gentle kiss on the lips. Gabrielle accepted the kiss without hesitation. When they parted she smiled and sighed. "Yes thats it. Its the same kiss."
"You know I think youre having better dreams than I am." Morgan said with a chuckle.
"Well there is this one dream that I keep having " She smiled.
"I definitely want to hear about that one." Morgan caressed Gabrielles face with the tips of her fingers as she smiled at her.
Suddenly Morgan stiffened and her hands went to her guns. She spun around bringing both colts up and cocking back the hammers. "Okay show yourself!" She ordered making sure that her body was well between the intruder and Gabrielle.
Brisco stepped out from the shadows. He looked completely embarrassed. "Im sorry I didnt mean to interrupt ah Ill just be going now."
Morgan released the hammers of the guns and reholstered them. "Thats a good way to get yourself shot Brisco."
"Apparently. Im sorry Morgan Miss Stafford, please forgive me."
"Did you need something or were you just spying?" Gabrielle asked.
Morgan bit back the laugh as the spirited young woman stepped around her to confront their uninvited spectator.
"Well actually yes I did have a reason for being here. Morgan do you know Tucker Cantrell?"
"Yeah Tucker and I are old friends. Hes suppose to be here for the tournament, but I havent seen him yet."
"You wont. He was found dead in his hotel room this morning."
"What happened?" Morgan asked as she glanced to Gabrielle.
"Were not sure. The cause of death hasnt been determined yet. He apparently died with a smile on his face."
"Yeah that would have been Tuckers style. Keep me posted will ya Brisco?"
"Sure thing. And Im really sorry for the interruption. Theyre going to be drawing table lots in about a half an hour. In the smoking parlor."
"Thanks Ill be there." Morgan said as she pulled out the cigar case again.
"Well be there." Gabrielle corrected. She noticed the look on Morgans face. "Hey if Im suppose to be covering the tournament then Im going to cover the tournament. They dont pay me fifty dollars a week for nothing you know."
"Youre underpaid." Morgan said as she put another cigar between her lips.
Brisco cleared his throat and waved his good-bye to the pair as he walked away, leaving them alone again.
"So who do I have to talk to about a raise?" Gabrielle teased as she took the match from Morgans hand and struck it on the rail. She held the match for Morgan as she leaned down and lit her cigar. After it was lit, Gabrielle brought the match to her lips, her eyes never left Morgans as she gave a soft blow putting out that flame, but igniting another in a certain gunfighter.
"I have a few connections at that rag you work for," Morgan teased back. "Maybe I can pull some strings."
"How gallant of you. Thanks." Gabrielle tossed the match overboard.
"Gabrielle how insane does all this sound?"
"Well lets just say that if we were to tell anyone else Im pretty sure theyd have us locked up."
"No theyd have you locked up. Im rich. Theyd just call me eccentric." She said with a soft chuckle.
"Aww now thats not very nice." The reporter said as she tugged at the cloak, closing it tightly around her.
"It might not be nice, but it is the way the world works Gabrielle. If youre a working stiff youre crazy. If youve got money, youre eccentric." She took a drag off her cigar and put her hand in the small of the womans back. "Lets go inside and get a brandy to warm you up."
Morgan guided them back inside and to the smoking parlor. She placed Gabrielle in a corner booth and moved to the bar where she ordered two brandies. As she returned to the booth she discovered that Gabrielle had attracted an admirer. Choking back the urge just to shoot him and be done with it, she merely inserted herself between the two and handed a brandy to Gabrielle. "There you go." She said as she looked into the face of the young man who wanted to challenge her.
"Thank you Morgan." Gabrielle said as she tugged on the gunfighters arm. "Why dont you sit down."
Morgan slid into the booth. Never averting her gaze from the young man who was making no move to leave. He just stood there staring at Gabrielle. He was really starting to piss Morgan off.
"This is Jesse Cooper. Hes playing in the tournament too." Gabrielle offered the introduction hoping to ease the tension.
"Thats nice." Morgan growled.
"Jesse this is "
"Morgan Delaney. Yeah I know. Im looking forward to playing you."
"Youll have to make it to the final table. Unless of course you get lucky enough to draw the same starting table that I do." Morgan sipped her brandy and narrowed her gaze at Jesse. He wasnt picking up on the leave us alone signals that the gunfighter was so clearly sending. If he stayed this stupid shed have to hurt him just to get her point across.
"Uh Jesse its been really nice talking to you, but Morgan and I have some things to discuss " Gabrielle said sweetly hoping she could get the message across.
Thats another method, Morgan thought, but nearly as much fun as throwing him overboard.
"Yeah I suppose I should head back over to the guys. It was nice meeting you Gabrielle. I still look forward to it Miss Delaney."
"Uh-huh." Morgan snarled into her brandy snifter as she took another drink.
Jesse walked over to a table of men and sat down. From his position behind everyone else it was clear that he hadnt been invited there either, but at least they were willing to let him join them in some fashion.
"Moron." Morgan growled as she continued to watch him.
"Be nice. Hes perfectly harmless. Besides why the jealous act?"
"Who says it was an act?"
"Well gee I dont know, um lets see weve known each other for all of two hours."
"Gabrielle Ive known you all my life. Youve been in just about every dream Ive ever had. I dont know how to explain it, but yes Im in love with you. I always have been, ever since I was old enough to know what it meant to be in love."
Just as Gabrielle was about to respond Brisco stood up and called for everyones attention. "All right everyone were going to draw for tables." He reached over and took a hat from Isaac. "In this hat there are fifty poker chips. Each one has a number on it from one to ten. The number you draw is your starting table."
Before he could finish a line started to form and the men started drawing chips. Morgan made no move to go.
"Dont you want to get your table?" Gabrielle asked.
"Makes no difference which table I start at. What matters is where I end up." She said with a chuckle as she lit another cigar. "Will you sit with me while I play?"
"Are non players allowed at the tables?"
"You can sit behind me. Besides dont you want to be where the action is?"
"My you certainly are full of yourself arent you Miss Delaney?"
"Im confident Gabrielle. Theres a difference."
"I see, if youre a working stiff youre cocky. If youve got money your confident. Is that it?"
"Thats it." She said with a smile as she drained her glass and took another drag of her cigar.
When the rush was past Morgan drew herself up and took one of the last chips in the hat. She looked at it and put it in her pocket. She nodded to Brisco and made her way back the booth. She found that Gabrielle had ordered two more drinks. She smiled as she sat down.
"What table did you draw?"
"Number one." The smile turned into a grin.
They walked back towards their cabins, slowly strolling, neither of them in a hurry. When they arrived, Gabrielle gave Morgan back her cloak. She felt like a silly young girl out with her first crush. Morgan took her key and unlocked her door for her. As she handed her the key, Morgan captured Gabrielles hand and pulled her into her arms for another kiss, this one longer, deeper, passionate.
As they pulled back from each other, Gabrielle licked her lips and drew a deep breath. "Oh yeah thats it. Thats the one." She moaned, her eyes closed.
"You really must share that dream with me." Morgan said as she ran her thumb across Gabrielles lips and down her cheek.
Gabrielle pushed the door to her room open. "Theres no time like the present." She took Morgans hand and pulled her into the room.
It didnt take long. Morgan found herself mentally berating herself for having so damn much gear on. Trying to remove her clothes while engaged in one of the most passionate kisses of her life wasnt the easiest accomplishment in the world. Gabrielle pushed her jacket off her shoulders and it fell to the floor somewhere near the door. Morgan kicked her boots off and growled when the kiss was momentarily broken, while doing so.
As they resumed the kiss Gabrielle fumbled with the ascot and Morgan tugged at the straps that held the derringer in place on her arm. The derringer fell by the wayside somewhere near her jacket. She went for her gun belt next, making sure to undo the leather thongs first, she quickly unbuckled it and dropped it to the floor.
By the time they made it across the room to the bed, there was a trail of clothing from the door to the bed, including Gabrielles dress, which had found a home near the table in the center of the room.
Morgan picked Gabrielle up and laid her on the bed. She leaned in and kissed her as her hands began running over the womans soft warm flesh. Gabrielle wrapped her arms around Morgan and pulled her onto the bed. Their bodies melted together as if they were made for each other.
"Ohh yesss ." Gabrielle moaned into Morgans ear as the gunfighter nuzzled her neck and nibbled playfully on her earlobe. Her hands ran down the length of the gunfighters back and ended up on a nice firm backside. Her nails dug in as Morgan trailed soft gentle lips down her neck, across her collarbone and down to her breasts.
Morgan could hear her own heart beating in her ears as she took a firm erect nipple into her mouth and Gabrielle moaned again. Morgan was on fire and she knew that she was going to go up in flames with this woman tonight. It felt so right as the blonde moved under her. Nothing had ever felt so right before.
"God Gabrielle, what are we doing?" Morgan gasped as she returned to the reporters neck and whispered in her ear.
"Making love." She whispered back. "And dont stop."
"But I " Morgan stammered as she felt a sudden rush of guilt. "Dont want you to do anything "
"Shhh less talk. Im not a little girl." She whispered in Morgans ear as her hands wrapped firmly in the long dark hair. "I know what I want I want you."
Morgan smiled as she trailed soft warm kisses down the reporters body. Her hands roaming all over the soft flesh of her lover. Gabrielles soft moans only served to encourage her. She kissed Gabrielle, her tongue requesting and being given entrance into the womans mouth. The taste of this woman was as sweet as Morgan had dreamt. Their tongues danced with each other as their hand roamed all over each other.
Morgan broke the kiss as her need to consume Gabrielle overcame her. She trailed soft kisses down her body. She finally found herself just outside what she desired most. The musky scent of her lovers readiness drove her forward. She gently parted Gabrielles leg and slid between them. Her mouth gently and slowly came to rest in the warm wet center. She slid her tongue in for the first taste of her lover. A moan escaped her as she took the sweet liquid into her mouth.
"Ohhh God " Gabrielle gasped as her hands found Morgans shoulders and her fingertips dug in deeply. "Yes ohhh yesss " She moaned.
Morgan continued her discovery of her lover. Gabrielles body moved with her, writhing and pulsing as she continued to take in every ounce that the reporter would give. She could feel the womans body tense as she pulled the pleasure point into her mouth and ran her tongue over it.
Gabrielles body arched into Morgan. Her hips thrust into the gunfighters warm mouth as the first wave hit her. "Please Morgan please " She begged for release.
Morgan used her mouth to bring release to her lover. Gabrielles body tensed and shuddered, her breathing was ragged as Morgan returned to the top of the bed and pulled her into her arms. She kissed her on the forehead. "I love you Gabrielle God how I love you."
Gabrielle looked into Morgans face. In the moonlight streaming through the window she could see a single tear running down the gunfighters face. She reached up and wiped it away with her thumb. "Why?" She asked as she rubbed the tear between her thumb and forefinger.
"Because I love you." Morgan whispered. "And I dont want to lose you now that Ive found you." She pulled the woman closer.
Gabrielle kissed Morgan on the neck and began her own exploration of the gunfighters body. "I dont think you have to worry about that." She said as she slowly kissed her way down.
Gabrielle lay on top of Morgan, both lovers totally spent and trying to recapture their breath. Morgan ran her hand leisurely up and down the smaller womans back. Gabrielle lifted her head from Morgans shoulder and looked into her eyes. "That was incredible." She sighed as she pushed her damp bangs back from her forehead.
"Yes it was." Morgan agreed breathlessly.
Gabrielle slid off of Morgan and curled up into the crook of her arm, her head lying on the gunfighters shoulder. She wrapped her arm snuggly around her waist and sighed.
"I feel complete." Gabrielle whispered.
"So do I." Morgan said as she planted little kisses on Gabrielles forehead.
"I guess this was meant to be."
"So it would seem. I wonder if well dream tonight."
"I dont know. Somehow I doubt it."
"Well before we find out theres something I have to do." Over the grouchy protests of her lover, Morgan extracted herself from bed and retrieved her gun belt. She looped it through the bedpost and fastened it securely in place. She climbed under the covers and brought Gabrielle back into her arms.
"You got up for that?" Gabrielle teased as she snuggled in next to Morgan.
"Oh yeah. I never go to sleep without at least one gun close at hand."
"Hmmm " Gabrielle sighed. She could feel herself drifting of to sleep. She was warm, comfortable and safe in these strong arms that held her.
Morgan caressed her lovers back and soon fell asleep as well. Neither woman dreamt of anything but each other.
Someone knocking on the door of her cabin next door awoke Morgan in the morning. She carefully slipped out of bed and found her shirt. She slipped it on and buttoned a couple of buttons to hold it closed. She opened the door of Gabrielles room and stuck her head out. Henry stood at the door leaning on the wall waiting for an answer.
"Hey," She whispered. "Im over here."
Henry looked at the door he had been knocking on and then over to his friend. He gestured to the first door. "I thought "
"It is my room I just didnt sleep there last night. What do you want?"
"First round starts in an hour and a half. Thought you might want to get some breakfast."
Morgan yawned and considered it. "Yeah thats a good idea. Well meet you down there in a little bit."
"We?" He asked with a grin.
"Just go and let me get ready."
"Yes maam." He said as his grin widened.
Morgan ducked back inside and closed the door. She looked over at the sleeping woman and smiled. Quietly she slipped back into bed and pulled her back into her arms. Gabrielle sighed and snuggled close.
"Hey beautiful. Ive got to get up." Morgan whispered softly.
"No." Gabrielles arm went around the gunfighter. "You stay. I stay. Perfect."
Morgan chuckled. "As much as I would love to do that the game starts in about an hour and I need to get cleaned up."
"Forget the game. Stay here with me. Well make love all day." She said without even opening her eyes.
"Oh that is a tempting offer." Morgan kissed her on the top of the head.
"Then take me up on it." She began running her hands over Morgans body. She opened her eyes when her hand came in contact with the material of the shirt. "Aww thats not nice." She said as she began tugging on the front of the shirt.
Morgan captured the reporters hands in her own and flipped her onto her back, pinning her hands above her. She lay over the smaller woman with a wicked grin on her face. Gabrielle grinned back. "Yes?" The reporter asked as she licked her lips.
"Now whos not being nice?" Morgan asked.
"Well Ive got to do something to convince you to stay here."
"Aww come on Gabrielle. Dont make this any harder than it has to be. Lets get up and have some breakfast."
"You would wouldnt you?" The reporter asked. "Youd give up the game if I asked you too."
"Yes." Morgan said as she sat up on the edge of the bed.
Gabrielle gathered the blankets up around her and sat up. "Youd give up a twenty thousand dollar entrance fee and a half million dollar jackpot for me "
Morgan turned and caressed Gabrielles face. "Yes. Ill walk away from it. Money doesnt mean anything to me Gabrielle, it never has. Youre more important."
Gabrielle got up from the bed and handed Morgan her pants. "Lets get ready for breakfast youve got a game to play."
Morgan stood and pulled Gabrielle into her arms. "I do love you."
Gabrielle smiled and played with the buttons on Morgans shirt. "I want to say it Morgan, I really do. I just "
Morgan put her fingers over the reporters lips. "Its okay. You dont have to. I know how difficult this is and Ill understand completely "
Gabrielle leaned up and kissed Morgan, a deep passionate kiss. She broke away from it and caressed Morgans face with the palm of her hand. "Just give me time."
"As much as you need."
In her room, Morgan cleaned up and dressed for comfort. It was going to be a long day. Not only was she getting ready to start the tournament, but now she was worried about what she had done to Gabrielle. She stared in the mirror as she tied her hair back. "Good going stupid." She said aloud. "Couldnt take youre time no you had to just jump into bed with her."
A knock on the door that connected their rooms startled her. She shook her head and opened the door. Gabrielle stood on the other side with the ascot draped over her finger. She was dressed in a blue shirt, tan vest and trousers that where tucked into soft calve skinned boots. Morgan smiled. "Did you forget something?" The reported said as she rocked the ascot back and forth on her finger.
"Well you know, its tradition to leave something behind if youre looking for an invitation back."
"Oh you have an open invitation."
"Oh I do, do I?" She asked as she leaned in and stole a quick kiss and took the ascot.
"Oh yeah." The reporter stated as she leaned against the doorway and watched as Morgan finished getting ready. She looked at this tall beautiful woman. Her dark hair was tied back in the manner it had been the first time she had seen her. She wore a white shirt with black embroidered stitching and onyx buttons. Once again black trousers and her usual boots. Gabrielle wondered if the gunfighter owned a light pair of trousers. She watched as Morgan put her gun belt in place and made the adjustments that would allow her to wear it in relative comfort. She smiled as she watched her tie the leather thongs around her thighs. Oh, she remembered those strong thighs. "Ohhh." The sound left her lips before she even realized it was there.
Morgan turned her head and smiled. "Yes?"
"Just reflecting " She said softly.
"Un-huh." Morgan crossed over to the hat rack and retrieved her hat. She placed it on her head and tipped it forward. Gabrielle came into the room and moved to the gunfighter. She wrapped her arms around Morgan and kissed her on the neck. Morgan leaned down and kissed the reporter. "We really should get going." Morgan said as her lips gently continued to brush against Gabrielles.
"Un-huh." Gabrielle moaned as she accepted another kiss.
"Gabrielle if we dont go right now "
They walked into the dining room together. Morgan guided Gabrielle over to the table that Isaac and Henry were seated at. The two men stood as Morgan pulled out Gabrielles chair. After they were all seated Morgan made the introductions. Henry just smiled at Morgan as she prepared her first cup of coffee.
"What?!" Morgan said to her friend as she poured the coffee.
"Oh nothing." He said, as he suddenly became very interested in the food on his plate.
Gabrielle tried with little success to suppress a smile.
"Oh now dont you start too." Morgan said as she passed her a cup of coffee.
"Why do I feel like Im the only one at the table missing out on the joke?" Isaac asked as he took a bite of his pancakes.
"Theres no joke to miss out on." Morgan commented as she sipped her coffee.
"So how you feelin about the game?" Isaac asked as he took another mouthful of food.
"You know me. I never think about a game before I sit down at the table."
A waiter came over and took the orders of the two newest arrivals. Gabrielle was amazed when Morgan just ordered toast and two eggs. She thought a woman like that would have an insatiable appetite for food as well.
Brisco scanned the room until his eyes landed on the person he needed to talk to. He walked purposely across the room and stopped behind Morgans chair.
Without turning around Morgan smiled. "Good morning Brisco would you like a cup of coffee?"
"No thanks Morgan. We need to talk." He said leaning down slightly.
"Brisco anything you need to say to me you can say in front of my friends."
"Oh all right. Morgan where were you last night?"
"I dont see wheres thats any of your business. Im an adult."
"Morgan. Somebody killed Duncan McGuire last night. Shot him through the throat with a derringer. Since that little episode you had with him during dinner "
"So Im youre number one suspect, because he threatened me at dinner last night? I assure you Brisco I did not kill Duncan McGuire."
"Wheres your derringer?"
"In my cabin."
"Can you show it to me please?"
As Morgan pushed away from the table Gabrielle started to speak, "Mr. County I can "
Morgan turned to Gabrielle and shook her head, cutting off the other womans words. Gabrielle rose from the table; "Do you mind if I go with you Morgan?"
"Gabrielle this will only take a minute. Just relax and enjoy your breakfast Ill be right back." Morgan got up from her seat.
Gabrielle returned to her seat and watched them leave the dining room. "She didnt kill Duncan." She whispered, trying to reassure herself that everything would be all right.
"Of course she didnt." Isaac said as he laid a reassuring hand on her arm. "Shell show Brisco her gun and everything will be all right."
"But I know she didnt kill him." Gabrielle said as she turned to look at Isaac. "She was with me all night last night."
Continued..Part 2 (Conclusion)
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