The Best Intentions
by Carrie Byrd
Ratings/Warnings: PG, violence
It was her hair that first caught his attention. It was a blaze of
gold in the hot afternoon sun that beat down on the desert town of Four
Corners. The green eyed gambler unconsciously leaned forward to stare
at the slim woman perched astride a broad-backed sorrel mare that seemed
to dwarf her slim figure. Her hat was pushed back, and her eyes glinted
in the sun as she reined the skittish animal in front of the saloon where
he sat. Seemingly not noticing the intent gaze of the man sitting outside
the saloon doors, she strode through them without pausing. Ezra stared
after her and wondered if the feeling that something was about to happen
was a good or bad thing.
Inside the saloon, the blonde woman had perched on one of the hard
wooden stools lining the bar and called to Inez to bring a whiskey. The
Mexican woman complied, and had moved down the bar to take another order
when her patron's voice was drowned out by an unbelieving cry. She looked
up in time to see Vin Tanner sweep the strange woman up in a bear hug,
accompanying it with an uncharacteristic whoop.
Ezra stood watching the scene from just beyond the batwing doors,
and he and Inez shared an incredulous look. The tracker, normally quiet
and unassuming was the focus of every person in the room as he swung
the woman around joyfully.
"Vin Tanner! You put me down this instant!" The woman's voice was
indignant, but filled with suppressed laughter and Ezra was charmed by
its silken lilt.
Vin, who rarely got beyond a shy half smile, laughed. "I'll put you
down as soon as you tell me what you're doing here, Bonnie."
"I can't tell you anything if you're squeezing the life out of me!"
The woman cried, struggling to free herself from Vin's enthusiastic embrace.
The rangy man set her free reluctantly, and Ezra understood the reluctance
perfectly. If she were pressed against him he wouldn't want to let her
go either. She was about 5'6", and slim. She'd shed the jacket he'd first
seen her in and revealed soft curves encased in faded denims and a dusty
white cotton work shirt. Her green eyes glowed in the dim light of the
saloon, and whiskey colored flecks reflected the color of the drink she
held in her hand. Unusual eyes, he thought. Eyes that could capture a
man a pull him in effortlessly. Ezra shook his head. She was unlike any
woman he'd ever seen before, and he suspected that the storm that he'd
felt brewing might begin with her.
Bonnie shot back the whiskey she held in her hand, and turned to Vin
with a smile, readying her explanation. "I was just passing through actually.
I needed a break and so did my horse, so here we are." She held up the
glass. "I got thirsty."
Bonnie could feel the handsome man's eyes burning into her, but she
focused her attention on Vin instead. He was the reason she was here
after all. To settle old scores, and to tell old secrets now that the
time had finally come. This was no time, she thought, to get distracted
by a pretty face. No she amended, a handsome face, gorgeous, even, with
eyes like green ice behind a mask of carefully schooled indifference.
He'd been the first thing she'd seen coming into town, his bright read
coat catching her eye from his seat beneath the awning in front of the
dusty little saloon. Like him, she had practice hiding her emotions,
and so she ignored the quickening little beat of her heart when she saw
his classically handsome profile and impeccable taste in clothes. She
gave herself a mental shake and reminded herself that she was here for
Vin. Vin, who, as always wore rough and ready clothes, nothing so sophisticated
as black linen pants that showed off the fit lines of a slender body,
with a crisp red jacket accenting the red-gold glints in dark, curling
hair. If only he would stop staring at her, maybe she would be able to
Vin laid a possessive hand on her back and turned her to face the
green-eyed man with a broad smile. "Ezra, I'd like you to meet my friend,
Vin knew the man? Bonnie couldn't believe it. They were so different,
like night and day, like the desert and the deep blue grass of Kentucky.
"It is truly a pleasure to meet so lovely a lady in a town so often
bereft of beauty by its simple starkness," Ezra drawled.
Bonnie suppressed a smile. Kentucky wasn't that far off. His smooth
rich voice wrapped around her like fine silk. "You flatter me, sir. I'm
a bit dusty to be that beautiful." She shrugged. "On the other hand,
I've never been one to turn down a compliment."
Vin did not miss the flirtation in Bonnie's voice and he raised a
surprised brow. The Bonnie he'd known would have blushed and stared intently
at the floor, perhaps murmuring an almost inaudibly thanks, but she would
never have returned Ezra's subtle flirtation in kind. And for that matter
what did Ezra think he was doing, flirting with her.
Vin unconsciously pulled the girl closer to him, his hand fitting
easily in the curve of her slim waist. "Well, Bonnie, we've got a lot
of catching up to do," Vin said, turning slightly so that Ezra was blocked
off from the small circle they had created.
"Indeed. But first I'd like to get a room and get cleaned up. If you'll
excuse me?" She slid smoothly from Vin's grasp, smiled at Ezra and threw
two coins on the counter to cover her drink before making a graceful
Ezra watched Bonnie leave before turning to Vin, who was leaning against
the bar, watching the gambler watch Bonnie. "Your friend is quite a lovely
woman," he said, gesturing to Inez to bring him a drink. He picked up
her glass and turned it so that it caught the light, and smiled as rainbows
danced across the scarred bar.
Vin eyed Ezra suspiciously. "I know," he said shortly.
"Might I inquire as to how you are acquainted with the young lady?"
"How do you know her?" Vin's eyes lit with understanding.
"I guess you could say me and Bonnie grew up together," he said.
A pleased expression crept into Ezra's eyes. "So she's like a sister
to you, then."
Vin looked startled, and smiled his sly smile. "I wouldn't say she
was like a sister Ezra." His smile widened. "I definitely wouldn't say
that." Vin nodded to the gambler and then strolled slowly through the
doors Bonnie had exited only a moment before.
Bonnie stood in front of the mirror and admired her reflection. It
was too bad that Vin couldn't have seen her like this first. She'd grown
up, and she didn't think he realized it. She smiled, and blew her reflection
a kiss. If he didn't realize it yet, he was gonna, she thought, and,
gathering her skirts, she went to meet him.
Vin was standing at the bottom of the stairs perfecting his lean when
Bonnie began her descent. He took one look at her and leaned a little
too far. The patrons in the hotel lobby giggled nervously as they peered
at the prone form of the lanky tracker where he lay on the floor. Chris
Larabee, who had entered just in time to see Vin's ignominious tumble,
had suppressed a smile. His friend was normally the picture of grace.
He followed the man's still stunned gaze to the stairs to see what had
caused the tumble and very nearly followed him down.
The woman on the stairs was a vision. Her simply cut blue dress hugged
her body in a way that would make men want to do the same. He supposed
that it wasn't quite the style, with its simplicity, but it suited her
far better than the frills and bustles that most other women wore. Her
honey colored hair glinted in the warm lighting in the room. Her eyes
were flecked with mischief and puzzlement as she stared down at the man
she'd come to see. Chris sighed in appreciation. She was well worth taking
a fall for.
Bonnie had seen Vin's fall and found herself warring between a mischievous
pleasure and concern for her prone friend. When she set eyes on the black-clad
man who stood beside him her concern evaporated in a wave of curiosity.
The man held a hand out to Vin and she studied him carefully. Clearly,
he and Vin were friends. Were ALL of Vin's friends in this little town
gorgeous? The long legs were tightly encased in black jeans and he moved
with a lithe grace that reminded her of a cat on the prowl. Sandy blonde
hair that fell in his eyes, a rakish grin and green eyes that could freeze
your soul or light it on fire completed what was an altogether breathtaking
picture. Especially, Bonnie mused, when he was bent over like that .
. . still he wasn't quite so handsome as that other man . . . Ezra, or
at least, he didn't have the same appeal for Bonnie.
Vin finally regained his senses enough so that he was on his feet
when Bonnie reached the bottom of the stairs. "Bonnie," he said, "I never
expected you to clean up quite so good."
Bonnie smiled. It was a slightly backwards compliment, but one of
the first she'd ever gotten from him that hadn't been in relation to
her throwing arm or her ability to spit or some such thing. "Why, thank
you Vin," she purred. "Who's your friend?"
"This is Chris Larabee," Vin said.
"THE Chris Larabee?" Bonnie eyed the black-clad man with renewed interest.
"I've heard big things about you."
Chris narrowed his piercing green eyes. "Don't believe everything
Bonnie laughed. "Oh, I don't." Chris looked at her in surprise. "I
don't believe in fairy tales." Bonnie's smile was sugary sweet and Vin
looked at her in shock. She led the way out the door and Vin hurried
after her, shooting Chris an apologetic look.
Josiah settled into the chair next to Chris and flagged Inez down
for a drink. Ezra joined the two men, his long, slim fingers shuffling
his cards effortlessly. "Would either of you two gentlemen care to join
me in a game of chance?" He smiled, his green eyes sparkling.
"You cheat Ezra, and I'm broke." Josiah sighed and settled back into
the battered wooden chair, and it creaked with his bulk.
"Why sir, I am offended by such a slanderous remark upon my character."
Ezra drew himself as if he was insulted but made no move to leave the
table. Instead, his fingers began to fly as he began to shuffle the cards
at a greater speed, until they were almost a blur.
"Brother Ezra, you have an altogether too great a propensity to show
off." Josiah favored the smaller man with a smile and Ezra winked.
"My mother always said, if you've got it, flaunt it." Ezra hesitated,
"Although I'm not quite sure she was referring to her card playing skills.
Still, I suppose it's as true in any case."
The two men grinned and Larabee looked at them bemusedly, amazed at
the camaraderie that had sprung up not only between Ezra and Josiah,
but between all of the men he rode with. He had to admit, he rather felt
a bond with them to, not that he would ever have admitted to the green-eyed
gambler that he had come to enjoy the man's company. No, that would only
given a boost to Ezra's already plentiful ego. And speaking of egos .
. . Buck looked like his had been wounded, Chris mused. The big man had
entered the saloon with his shoulders slumped dejectedly and JD followed
close on his heels, the grin tugging at the edges of the boy's lips reassured
Chris that whatever had happened wasn't serious.
"Why, Mr. Wilmington, you look positively desolate. May I inquire
as to whether a member of the gentler sex is responsible for your dismal
countenance?" Ezra looked at the mustachioed man curiously.
"Ezra, I don't know what you said, but shut up," Buck growled. He
dropped down into a seat at the table and pulled his hat low over his
eyes. "Some women just ain't worth it."
"Who was she?" Chris asked.
"It was Vin's friend, Bonnie!! Boy you guys should have seen it, if
Buck had stayed any longer he might have caught cold she was so cool
to him." JD's enthusiastic description brought smiles to every face but
"Pray tell, Mr. Dunne, precisely what happened," Ezra asked.
"Well, Buck saw her, and being Buck he went right over to her. Vin
introduced him, cause he had to, and me too, cause I was with Buck. And
then Buck tried to put his 'animal magnetism' to work. She shot him down
like a slow moving duck!" the men laughed at Buck's misfortune, and the
"Well, Buck, you can't win 'em all. Hell," Josiah smothered a grin,
"I've seen this little girl, and she might be a looker, but I'm not sure
what you'd do with her when you got her. She looks like a spitfire."
"She didn't used to be." The quiet tracker dropped lightly into a
chair at the table that locals recognized as 'belonging' to the seven.
"But she sure is now." Vin looked around the table at his friends in
confusion. "The Bonnie I remember was quiet little tomboy. Her brother
Jack and I were real good friends. Did just about everything together.
She used to tag along, be a little pest. Like to drive us crazy. Last
time I saw her she was about 16, just turning into a cute little thing.
No boy'd give her a second look though; cause they was all scared of
Jack. He was awful protective of her." Vin shook his head. "Damn. She
sure grew up."
"If you're just figuring that out, Mr. Tanner, you're slower than
I gave you credit for." Ezra shook his head. Vin glared at him. And Ezra
shrugged. "May I inquire as to what brings such a lovely woman to our
humble little town."
"She won't say," Vin said. Chris frowned. "All she'll say is that
she's taking care of some old business."
"Don't you think that's kind of strange Vin? That someone you haven't
seen just pops up out of the blue and won't say why?" Chris asked.
"I know what you're thinkin' Chris, but she ain't here about the bounty.
She ain't that kind of girl. Why, I remember she was so tender hearted
she couldn't stand to see a man wear spurs. Once, she got into a fight
with a whole group of boys cause they was picking on some poor old mangy
mutt." Vin chuckled at the memory.
"And as I recall, I whooped you too, Vin Tanner, all of you." Bonnie's
voice was filled with amusement. Vin grinned, but didn't say anything.
"I just thought I'd come in and clarify something for you before I went
to bed. I'm not here about the bounty, although I do know about it. Jack
and I have had our share of men come looking for you when they found
out we knew you." She sighed, and none of the men missed the look of
sadness that passed over her face. "We never said anything about you
to them, Just so you know." Bonnie turned on her heels and disappeared
back through the batwing doors that hung in the front of the saloon.
She paused halfway down the boardwalk, and drank in the cool desert air.
"Then why are you here?" Bonnie jumped when Ezra's voice came out
of the darkness. "I won't repeat it to Mr. Tanner if I don't think it's
necessary, but I'm not a big fan of surprises. I am, however, quite skilled
at reading people, and whatever's going on, I'd wager it has something
to do with the bounty on his head. ."
"I hold Vin that Jack was still in Texas." Bonnie said. Ezra just
stared at her, confused by the sudden change of topic. He opened his
mouth to interrupt her, but she held up a slim brown hand and cut him
off. "Strictly speaking that's true. Of course, he's dead, which makes
it a bit hard for him to get around, but technically, he is still in
Texas." Bonnie's defiant façade dropped for a moment, and he could
see the fear and pain that was plaguing her. "He was killed by one of
the men that were looking for Vin. Name was Dick Dastardly. He wanted
to know where Vin was and Jack wouldn't say. It was just bad luck that
we got one of Vin's rare letters that day. Hell, it's only this past
year or so that we've heard from him at all. I was taking care of getting
supplies for the ranch over in the general store when Jack came in to
tell me about it. I guess he overheard cause he hunted Jack down on his
way home, took the letter off of him. I found the body out on the trail
on my way home. He didn't just kill Jack--he mutilated him, it was so
. . .horrible."
Bonnie suppressed a shudder and Ezra slipped an arm around her. She
stiffened before relaxing into his soft embrace. "I couldn't recognize
his face, it was so . . . I could only tell it was Jack because of other
things, like there was this scar on the bottom of his left foot where
he stepped on a rock in the creek when we were little. You know the kind
of thing I mean . . ." she sighed. "Jack was all I had. We lost our parents
pretty young, and sort of took care of each other. Even when he thought
I was a pest he never dumped me. I was totally lost, I just didn't know
what to do without him." Bonnie sighed again, and leaned against Ezra's
burgundy coat, enjoying the feel of the soft material under her cheek.
"By the time I got Jack . . . taken care of, I'd formulated a plan. I
had to find Vin. I knew that's where the bounty hunter would be headed.
And I knew he had a head start on me. We'd figured out where Vin was
a long time ago, even if he didn't ever say precisely where he was. It
wasn't too hard to figure out. So I got my stuff together and just headed
out. It's only a matter of time before Dastardly shows up here, and I'm
going to make him pay for what he did."
"But why didn't you just tell Mr. Tanner this in the first place?"
"Are you kidding?" Bonnie laughed incredulously. "Vin's always been
as bad as Jack for big brothering me. Do you really think he'd let me
go gunning for some professional bounty hunter? Not likely." Bonnie gestured
to her dress and frowned. "I even tried to dress up a bit, maybe make
Vin see that I've grown up, but he hasn't said a word, so I'm starting
to wonder if he's even noticed."
"He noticed." Ezra smiled. "Trust me, he noticed. And I think you
need to tell him, tell of them, what you've just told me. It wouldn't
hurt to have some help, you know. And you can watch Vin's back more effectively
if he's keeping an eye out too."
"I guess you're right." Bonnie reluctantly pulled herself away from
the southerner, smoothing the creases she'd made in his jacket self-consciously.
"Sorry about that."
"Don't mention it. A wrinkle in my attire is a small forfeit to be
able to give a lady such as yourself some degree of comfort." Ezra offered
his arm to the slim woman, and smiled brightly when she took it, enjoying
the feel of having her so close to him. He'd enjoyed having her wrapped
in his arms more than he wanted to admit, but he would never take advantage
of a woman in such a vulnerable state. They stopped outside the saloon
doors and she dropped his arm, straightened her skirt, smiled at him,
and plunged into the light and noise of the busy bar.
"Are you out of your mind?" Vin's exclamation caught everyone off
guard. The man was normally so quiet that to hear him yell was as unexpected
as snow in July. "I can't believe you were planning to go up against
some crazy bounty hunter."
Bonnie looked at him in disgust and then shot Ezra an 'I told you
so' look. "I can handle Dastardly."
"I don't care, you aren't going to get the chance," Vin said.
"Excuse me?" Bonnie's eyes sparkled dangerously and almost unconsciously
the other men began to back away from the two friends.
"I said you aren't going to get the chance. I want you out of this.
It's too dangerous." Vin nodded his head with finality.
"Like hell!" Bonnie stepped closer and looked the bounty hunter in
the eye. "I'm not just going to sit back for this Vin Tanner, and if
you think I am, you're sadly mistaken. This bastard killed my brother.
I owe him for that, and I always pay my debts. And I strongly suggest
that you don't try to stop me Vin."
"But . . ." Vin began, but she cut him off.
"But nothing. Besides, I'm the only one who can recognize Dastardly."
"Doesn't that mean that he could also recognize you?" Ezra interjected.
"I don't think so. Dastardly never actually approached me. I'm not
sure he even knows I exist. But Jack had pointed him out to me, so I
could keep my guard up." Bonnie looked at Ezra with a quick smile and
the turned back to Vin. "You may not like it Vin, but you need me. And
I need this. It would be nice if I didn't have to do it alone, but I'
m not going to stop just because you say so."
Vin stared at her. "Alright." The other six men nodded in agreement.
"This is what I think we should do," Bonnie pulled a chair up to the
table and began explaining her plan to the seven men.
They didn't have to wait long. Two days later Dastardly rode into
town followed by a handful of rough looking men. Bonnie was strolling
down the boardwalk with Ezra when she saw him. The gambler looked up
as her grip on his arm tightened and followed her gaze. Dastardly was
a big man, with beady eyes and a small mustache. He rode with his hat
pulled low and his black duster flapping around him. He wore two six
guns slung low across his hips and wore ammunition belts slung across
his chest like a bandalero straight out of Purgatory. His expression
was a leer that looked like it took effort to maintain, and possibly
left a headache in its wake.
"He looks like he's trying too hard," Ezra murmured.
"He looks like an idiot, but he's a dangerous idiot, Ezra. Besides,
his men don't look quite so stupid as he does."
Ezra turned his green eyes to the band of ruffians following the man
in black. They did indeed look more competent than their leader. Rough
and uncouth, with an arsenal of guns that probably could have supplied
a small army.
Bonnie sighed. "I guess we'd better sound the alarm." She looked back
at the group that was dismounting in front of the saloon. "I knew he
wouldn't be alone, but I hadn't counted on there being so many."
"I suggest we spread the word to our compatriots and regroup to discuss
these new developments. If you would be so kind as to stop by the jail
and inform Mr. Dunne and Mr. Wilmington of these events and have them
meet at the church, we'll be able to get this show on the road, so to
speak." Ezra smiled, and raised her hand to his lips. "Do be careful
my dear, I would hate to lose the company of so lovely a lady."
Bonnie stared into his green eyes for a moment, a soft flush creeping
up her cheeks. Slowly, Ezra released her hand and she turned towards
the jail. Glancing over her shoulder she couldn't help but admire the
gambler. He had style, and flair, and a heart of gold, even if he didn't
want anyone to know it. And he was gorgeous. Really, really gorgeous.
Bonnie sighed and shook her head, this was really not the time to be
thinking about Ezra or the way he made her skin tingle and her heart
beat a little bit faster and her stomach twist up in knots all just by
smiling at her. Or the ways his hands moved over a deck of cards that
made her wonder what they'd feel like against her skin or . . . no.
Now was definitely not the time to be thinking of these things.
Bonnie stopped outside of the jail and peered in the streaky windows.
Buck and JD sat inside, through the door she could hear their good-natured
ribbing and she tapped on the window to alert them to her presence.
Both men leapt to their feet, and Buck gave her a gallant smile. "Why
Miss Bonnie, you're looking plumb lovely today, and may I say that is
a beautiful dress?"
"Cool it Buck. It didn't work the first ten times and it's not going
to work now. Besides, I didn't come in here just to see your pretty little
face. Dastardly's in town, and he brought a few friends, which means
that we need to figure out exactly what we're going to do. We're supposed
to meet at the church. I'm heading over now, I suggest you two wait a
few minutes so that it doesn't look too suspicious."
"Dick Dastardly? What's he look like?" JD asked.
"A Chris Larabee wanna be with a serious case of const . . . um, never
mind." Buck smothered a grin, and clapped his hand over JD's mouth before
the boy could ask for an explanation. Look for a heavy, heavily armed
man in black." Bonnie looked out the window and nodded. "It's clear for
the moment, so I'm heading over. I'll see you boys in a few minutes."
Waving good-bye to the two men Bonnie ducked out of the jail and headed
down the dusty street to the partially restored church. The heavy wooden
door creaked and she stepped into the dimly lit building where Nathan
and Josiah were working side by side restoring the hard wooden pews.
"Hi boys!" The two men looked up at the bright sound of Bonnie's voice.
"It's that time. Dastardly and company just hit town."
Josiah straightened up, his impressive bulk seeming to fill the room.
"Counting Dastardly? Six. Enough guns to stock an armory though, and
they look like they know how to use them with more than the average skill
level. JD and Buck should be along shortly and Ezra's gonna find the
others and send them over. Now, it's just a matter of time."
Time was not something that they had a lot of. Dastardly had begun
asking about Vin the second he got off of his pretentious black stallion
and by the time night fell someone had let something slip. Minutes later,
he was standing in the street, flanked by his men, and screaming Vin's
name. Now Bonnie and the seven were crouched in strategic positions around
the town. Ezra could hear Bonnie's light breathing at his side. And smiled
in the darkness.
"Tanner! Tanner! I'm calling you out!! It's time for you to take a
little trip back home!" Dastardly's voice echoed in the darkened streets.
"I'm calling you out?" Ezra looked at Bonnie in disbelief. "Is this
guy for real?"
"Real enough to kill my brother." Bonnie's voice was tight and Ezra
laid a hand on her arm.
"Are you holding up okay, darlin'?" He peered at her face, which was
illuminated only by the night sky, and suddenly realized that her eyes
were dark with fear and anger and her mouth, normally curved into a perpetually
merry smile was pulled into a tight line.
"You don't have to worry Ezra. I'll be fine. This isn't my first gunfight,
you know." Bonnie said.
Ezra looked at her in surprise. "I didn't know that."
"Dastardly isn't the first one to look for Vin. Not the first one
not to take no for an answer either. Even if he had been it wouldn't
have mattered. Times are tough, and this is wild country. An independent
woman is considered an easy target. Especially for men like Dastardly
and his cohorts." Bonnie looked at Ezra with cool eyes. "I learned to
take care of myself."
"I bet you did." Ezra smiled and his gold tooth gleamed in the moonlight.
"Doesn't make it any easier though."
"No. I don't suppose it does." Bonnie frowned at the still shrieking
figure in the street. "Is he ever going to shut up?"
Ezra nodded to a shadowy figure that had begun moving forward from
under the shelter of the wooden awning that shielded the boardwalk.
Bonnie nodded. "Show time."
Vin's voice carried to the place where she and Ezra crouched behind
the false front of the general store. "I'm right here, now stop screaming
like a wounded calf in a hail storm and tell me what the hell you want."
Dastardly smiled, his rotting teeth shining in the dark. "I want the
five hundred dollars I'll get for your head pretty boy. Hope you got
your bags packed." The men that stood beside him snickered.
"I'm not much of a traveling man. I reckon I'll just stay right here."
Vin leaned coolly against a wooden post.
"If you don't want to pack a bag that's fine boy. We can always take
you back in one." The men snickered again and Bonnie grimaced. Their
laughter was getting on her nerves.
"It's one against six little man, do you really think you can take
us all?" Dastardly smiled.
"Sure it's only me? You might want to take a second look around."
Vin's slow smile sent a shiver through Dastardly, and he looked around,
and saw the light glinting off a gun barrel in an alley. Two on top of
the general store. One inside the jail, one on top. Three others scattered
in strategic places. Dastardly spotted them all, and the color drained
from his face. The sound of guns being cocked echoed throughout the town.
Dastardly hadn't been prepared to face any real opposition. His men were
though. They had known what they were riding into. And they had known
that Dastardly was incompetent and had ridden with him because it gave
them an excuse to do what they loved. An excuse that could yield five
hundred dollars. And they got to kill people.
Vin saw what was coming and had just enough time to dive out of the
street before the shots began to fly. In the next few minutes Ezra concentrated
all his attention on the street, saying a silent prayer that they would
all make it through in one piece. Which might have been the reason he
didn't see the woman at his side slip away. The fight was over in a matter
of minutes and when the dust cleared none of the outlaws were standing.
With the exception of Dastardly who wasn't really standing so much as
he was cowering on his knees in the street. Which is where Ezra saw Bonnie
approach him. And swore softly when he saw her raise her arm and saw
the moonlight glint off the cool metal of the colt's barrel.
"You killed my brother. Maybe not with your own hands. Hell, obviously
not with your own hands coward that you are. But you still killed him
just as surely as if you'd held the gun. Or knife. They used both you
know." Bonnie's hand trembled slightly. "I sworeswore on his grave
that I'd make you pay. That justice would be served and here we are."
"Please. I'm so sorry. Oh God. Oh Please. Don't kill me. I'll do anything.
Just don't kill me . . .please." Dastardly was a pathetic sight. He knelt
in front of her, and his eyes were wide with fear. He looked from Bonnie,
whose weapon was pointed at him unwaveringly, to the men who stood around
her. Three of the men struggled with emotions that they didn't know how
to cope with.
Chris watched as she stood above the man who had killed her family
. . .destroyed her life, and felt a brief stab of envy even as doubt
crept into his mind as to whether she would survive the harm that killing
a man in cold blood would do to her soul.
Vin watched and wondered if he should stop her. The man at her feet
had killed his best friend. Had broken some part of Bonnie's spirit and
stolen away the joy that had always been so much a part of her. All of
her laughter, all of her smiles had been shadows of the way they used
to be, and Vin knew that Dastardly was the reason she had changed and
he didn't like it . . .but he had to wonder if the next change might
be for the worse.
And Ezra watched with horror and pity and something else, a fear that
the woman that he'd fallen for so fast and so hard - her laughter, her
smiles, her passion - would all disappear in the aftermath of her revenge
. . .and he realized he couldn't risk that. He stepped up behind the
slim blonde woman. "Bonnie, darlin' don't do this."
"I have to Ezra. He killed Jack. He killed him." Bonnie's voice trembled.
"I have to make him pay."
"There are better ways." Ezra took another step closer to her.
"No! There has to be justice." Bonnie's voice was strident, and she
pulled the hammer back.
"There will be justice darlin'. But this isn't it. This is revenge."
Ezra laid a gentle hand on her shoulder and the men held their breath.
"You're better than this darlin'." He slid his hand down her arm and
took the gun away from her. She leaned against him, unresisting, and
he pulled her to him. Ezra pulled her arm and walked her slowly away
from the street, and each of the men relaxed unconsciously.
Dastardly had watched the tableau with fear glistening in his eyes,
and now was all but forgotten in the aftermath. Now was his chance .
. .and the fool that he was, he took it. Grabbing a gun from one of the
fallen ruffians he drew on the slim girl and fired. The sound of the
gunshot and its echo woke Bonnie from her daze and she felt something
hit her, sending her flying against Ezra, both of them tumbling to the
ground. It was only when she realized that there was another body on
top of her that she realized that Vin was what had hit her, pushing her
out of the way of the bullet's path. Scrambling free of the tangle she
knelt beside her friend. Blood seeped from his shoulder and his normally
clear blue eyes were clouded with pain.
"Oh God, Vin . . .I'm so sorry. I should have shot him. I shouldn't
have turned away . . .oh God . . ." Bonnie cradled his head on her lap
as Nathan ran up to them.
"I need to look at him Miss Bonnie." Nathan slid Vin's shoulder free
of his rough buckskin jacket and cut the shirt away with practiced skill.
He probed the wound, and lifted the man to check for an exit wound. "You'll
be fine. Lucky he was a bad shot though, or this might have been bad."
Nathan smiled with relief, and something he'd said penetrated to Bonnie's
"Didn't you hear that second shot?" Vin asked. Bonnie frowned, then
remembered the sound she'd thought was an echo and nodded. "Chris really
is fast you know."
Bonnie's gaze strayed to the quiet gunslinger and he tipped his hat
to her with a sly smile. "Is he dead?" she asked. Chris nodded. "Thank
you." Her gaze strayed to Ezra. "And thank you."
"Darlin', it was a pleasure." Ezra smiled and Bonnie felt her heart
jump. "I think Mr. Tanner might appreciate it if we got him out of the
Bonnie looked at her lap, where Vin's head still rested, and smiled.
"Indeed. And thank you to my friend." Vin smiled weakly and she moved
away just enough for Nathan and Chris to lift him up and support him
between them. Bonnie looked at Ezra with worried eyes. "He'll be alright
"Believe me when I say that since he is in Mr. Jackson's capable hands
I have the utmost confidence in his recovery." Ezra led her towards Nathan's
Josiah looked at the bodies strewn in the streets and then at Buck
and JD. "Well brothers, it looks as if cleanup duty has fallen to us."
JD groaned. "Oh, man. Buck, why do we always have to clean up the
Vin watched Ezra and Bonnie stroll along the boardwalk and frowned
when he saw Ezra's arm slide around the woman's trim waist. He hurried
to catch them, sighing impatiently as him arm shifted in its sling and
he had to stop to resettle it. When he caught up with them he laid a
hand on Ezra's shoulder.
"Mind if I have a word with you pard?"
Ezra looked at the man with amusement. "Not at all. What seems to
be the problem Mr. Tanner?"
To Ezra's surprise Vin blushed. "Actually, I'd kind of like to talk
to you in private." Ezra raised an eyebrow, but shrugged, and looked
at Bonnie apologetically. "Would you excuse us my dear?" he asked.
"Of course. I'll catch up with you later, I'm going to run and see
"Thank you. I shall wait with bated breath until we are reunited."
Ezra raised her hand and kissed it gently. Bonnie laughed and blew him
a kiss and waved goodbye to Vin as she ran down the sidewalk.
"Now Mr. Tanner, What is this matter that is of such importance?"
"What are your intentions towards Bonnie?"
Ezra looked at him incredulously before breaking into a brilliant
smile. "Only the best big brother. Only the best."
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