With thanks and apologies to Walter Mirisch, John Watson, Trilogy Productions, and CBS, and proceeding under the assumption that forgiveness is easier to ask than permission....
It was still dark when Vin Tanner opened his eyes ... dawn was a couple of hours away, he figured, by the dew on the ground and the sound of the nightbirds calling to each other among the saugaro cactus. He'd dreamed of ... well, best not to think of that. One hand reached down to adjust his dungarees, then he put his arms above his head and stretched until his joints popped. A soft sigh escaped his lips. He blinked, then looked at the bedroll next to him.
She was awake, and watching him.
*Damn,* he thought. *I'm losing my touch.*
"You all right?" he said aloud. His voice was soft, as always, but his horse blew in the dark at the sound of it.
"Yes," she answered, sitting and stretching herself. The firelight caressed her curves the way that Vin had been dreaming of doing with his hands ... the swell of her breasts was apparent beneath the denim of her shirt, and her red-brown hair seemed to take on the glow of the mesquite embers. "You?" she asked in a voice still husky with weariness.
"Yeah." He pulled his feet under him and rose with an easy grace. "Go back to sleep ... you got an hour or so yet. I'll check the horses." He was uncomfortable with the way her silhouette in the fire's glow made him feel ... best that he step away for a bit, he thought.
"Vin?" Her voice was small, not frightened but unsure. "I ..." She stopped and looked away from him, out into the blackness of the desert. There was something in her voice that brought him to her side and made him kneel there, as if she'd begged him with just the tone of those two words.
"You ain't all right," he said. "I know you ain't used to ridin' hard like we did yesterday ... you need to rest." He put a hand on her shoulder to push her back down onto her bedroll, but she reached up and gripped his hand as if it were a lifeline.
"I can't sleep. I ... " She shuddered. "I want to thank you, for getting me out of there. No one else would have come for me. And I know you didn't have to."
Vin hung his head in shame. He'd only gone after her because Chris had asked him to. She was a witness in a bank robbery ... the woman of the gang leader. A hard road lay behind her, and an equally hard one lay ahead, when he returned her to Four Corners in the morning. She'd have to testify against the man she'd lain with for countless nights, reluctant but unresisting. She'd have her second chance ... but not in Four Corners. Not with the man whose lover she'd been. And certainly not with Vin.
Yet he couldn't resist her need right now, hard as it was to ignore his own. He settled onto the bedroll next to her and slipped his arm around her until his two hands met where she gripped the first to touch her.
"S'all right," he murmured as he felt her shoulders tremble, trying to hold back tears that he knew she felt were a sign of weakness. "S'all right. Go ahead ... I ain't judgin' you."
It was all she needed. She leaned into him, hard and close ... but she didn't weep. Instead, she turned her face up to him and pressed her lips against his neck.
Vin drew his breath in with a hiss ... and felt those same lips close on his own, her tongue probing deep and drawing him into the kiss. He took her mouth hungrily, meeting her more than halfway, and then broke off. His breathing was harsh, and his body tight with wanting her.
"I won't take advantage," he managed. "I won't do that. I'm bound to take you back to Four Corners in the morning."
She looked at him with huge eyes. "I know. But we're not in Four Corners yet. I promise I'll hold you to nothing after tonight ... but tonight I want you." And her lips claimed his mouth again.
Vin, too long alone, turned his back on thinking and allowed himself the moment. Still locked in the kiss, he pressed her back into her bedroll, one hand caught in the red-gold tangle of her hair, the other loosing the buttons of her shirt until all that lay between her soft breasts and his roughened hands was the thin cotton of her camisole. His deft fingers pulled that aside and he tore his mouth from hers to claim one nipple, dark against the shadows on her skin, hard and high and begging for his lips to suckle there. She gasped and her body arced against him as her hands pulled at his clothing until his chest was bare and pressed to hers.
The tangle of their bodies shifted in the firelight as the rest of their clothing was discarded. The sighs and groans escaping them silenced the nightbirds as the whole desert seemed to pause and watch the lovers with rapt attention. Vin gasped and forced himself to pull away and look down at the woman lying naked beneath him. The dew of excitement put a sheen on her that caught the light of the campfire and made her skin glow. She panted like a deer frozen in flight, her body quivering with every breath, her nipples large and darker than her eyes, begging for his hands and mouth.
Vin pressed both hard against her skin, his teeth teasing the wrinkled nubs that peaked the twin hills of her breasts, his hands sweeping down the curves of her slender waist to the swell of her hips, one reaching behind to cup her buttocks and urge her thighs to part for him. He could smell her, like the moist earth after a rain, and he pressed his hard hunger against the damp fur where her legs met and thrust into her like lightning striking the hills during a summer storm.
The fire caught, and she threw her head back and cried out at the strike of his body into hers, opening her legs and pressing her thighs against his own, crossing her slender ankles behind his calves and throwing her body wantonly upward, begging for the power of his driving hips to take her again, and again, and again. With the innocent lust of animals rutting together, driven by the ancient urge of coupling, Vin lost himself in the hot folds that held him tight and drew his blood down to make him harder still. She whimpered in need and it inflamed him more ... his hands travelled the hills and valleys of her body, touching her special places in ways that he had learned long ago with other women, bringing her along with him in their reckless journey together toward that final bolt of lightning that would sear their separate bodies into one.
It came as they came together. She cried out first, and as her body clenched around him, Vin's breath escaped in a wordless cry and he thrust one final time, shuddering in the uncontrollable wrench of convulsing into her. Blood pounded in their veins as the moment passed and they held each other against the loss of heat, feeling themselves still smoldering where they remained joined, his hardness ebbing, her hold softening, but their arms and hands still holding firm to each other.
Vin's blue eyes looked down into hers with a hunger that their lust had not assuaged. She saw it, and understood, returning his look with one of equal hunger but also compassion, and release of another kind.
"It's morning," she whispered. Vin looked up and saw that she was right. A hairline of light lay on the horizon, and the creatures of the morning, no longer enthralled by the coupling of two strangers, were moving about their business in the underbrush. Their soft rustlings and quiet calls emptied Vin, and he sagged against the woman beneath him. She understood that too, and ran her fingers through the length of his hair until she found the nape of his neck. She pulled his head down for a final kiss, and then stirred beneath him.
"Thank you." She was smiling, and there was joy mingled with the sadness in that smile. Vin kissed her again, on the cheek this time.
"Darlin'--" he began, not knowing what he would say, but she stopped him before any words were uttered.
"Just say, 'you're welcome'," she whispered.
He shook his head and denied her, giving voice instead to his body, if not his heart.
"Thank you," Vin whispered.
The sun came up, and kissed them in their nakedness of body and of thought, and the new day began in the desert.
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