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Face Me West



Fireside


Constance and Arthur had been riding all day already after the hunt in the valley. The clouds rolled in black and quickly over the grizzlies with a torrent neither was prepared for. The water from the river started to swell uncomfortably fast. 

“Flash floods comin’, we gotta get to higher ground now!” Arthur shouted over the rain and wind whipping through the trees, holding down his hat. Constance nodded and redirected Ghost up a narrow path to follow him and Gracie. The rain came down harder, the earth becoming dangerously slick. 

“What’ll we do? We can’t make camp!” 

“There’s an abandoned house just at the top of the hill I’ve seen, we can wait out the rain there.” Constance could feel the water soaking through all her layers and her core seizing up at the sudden cold. Arthur took the lead as the light quickly disappeared behind the hill. She followed the best she could until they reached the damn thing. He helped her off her horse as was his way. She scurried in through the open door taking care to bring in her guns from the rain. It was dark and dingy inside. She set her mind to finding a lantern or candle while Arthur brought in the animals they’d been bringing to camp from the hunt. 

“You got any matches on you?” she asked.

“Yep.” He tossed her a pack and went back outside to stable the horses behind the house and bring in the rest. No candles yet, but there was a fireplace. She wandered the house for scrap wood. There was a coat rack that would have to do. Any lumber from outside would be too wet to burn. She broke it down by whacking it against the stone wall and piled it into the fireplace. Arthur came in from the rain and unloaded all the gear on the floor and blocked the door behind him. 

“It’s close quarters, but that’ll have to do,” he said.

“Oh that’s fine. You still have that newspaper you bought yesterday?”

He pulled it out of his pocket. “Sure,” he laughed. The water had destroyed it. “You wanna read it?” He tossed it to the ground with a wet slap. Her teeth started to chatter. “I told you to bring a better coat, Miss Constance, look at’chya.”

“Hindsight, Mister Hill. We need to get these clothes dry. Can you find something we can cover up with while we hang them-m-m?” 

“Of course. I’d hate for you to see this thing,” he grumbled, referring to himself.  He left to excavate the bedrooms after peeling off his coat. She had no idea how he hadn’t noticed her staring yet. Maybe he did and was gently trying to deter her. In the cupboards, she found a few cigarette boxes and emptied them out. She tossed them into the fireplace under the wood and lit them on all sides. She was too cold and wet to think about Arthur taking off all his clothes, although the thought did bring her some warmth, just not in her frozen fingers and toes. The fire was taking well, so she dragged over some chairs and started to hang her outer layers close to the heat. 

Arthur returned with a stack of blankets. “Found a few dry quilts, although I cannot promise they’re clean. Oh pardon,” he turned away. 

“Dry will do just fine.” She took the top one off the stack in his arms and wrapped it around herself. 

“I do have a few extra shirts in my saddlebags over there if you’d like.” When they were with the gang he was loud and near braggadocious, but when they went out on jobs together he was almost demure. He still didn’t see her as one of the girls, the ones that they’d all been riding with for years. He treated her with an awkward formality she didn’t know what to do with, nor did she know why. She figured it had something to do with the fact that she was still half-civilized, an outlaw by necessity. 

“Thank you, Arthur.” Constance made her way to where he’d left his saddle bag and dug out the thick cotton blue shirt. It was worn thin in a few places. She looked back at him by the fire where he was taking off his shirt, not looking in her direction. When he wasn’t looking she inhaled deeply, pressing it to her face. It was still clean and unworn, but she could smell him clear as day. Smoke, nicotine, pine, dirt, sweat. She’d never had it this bad before, as far as she could remember, which still wasn’t a lot. She pulled it over, unable to keep from thinking about it meaning something or delighting over how big it was on her. She kept the quilt over her back like a tent while she slid off her rain-soaked undergarments before wrapping herself up again. She dug back through the kitchen again to try to find candles again. There were a few old tallow candles buried with a single pan and three bottles of dusty, unlabeled red wine. She could hear Arthur singing quietly by the fire while he strung up the lasso to hang the rest of their clothes. She made sure never to say anything about it, since the first time she did he’d stopped and been gruff the rest of the day. Eventually, she realized he didn’t really know when he was doing it, just a little thing to pass the time. She especially loved that he was bad at it. She brought the candles and a bottle of the wine to the musty couch in front of the fireplace, now fully alighted and working away at the musty chill in the room. 

“Do we still have that rabbit from this afternoon?” she asked, offering him the bottle.

He hesitated before he took a deep swig and handed it back. “Sure. You got any herbs? We could have a regular feast.” 

She smiled, “Sounds like a plan.” He was able to roast the rabbit in the fireplace easily, and they’d quickly downed the bottle of wine between the two of them, talking about nothing as they usually did. The rabbit was fine, never her favorite, but she was thankful for a proper meal. Without asking she opened a second bottle of wine. 

“You sure that’s a good idea?”

“I’m all out of good ones.” She plopped back down and took a long drink herself. “Thank you for dinner, as usual.” 

“Sure.”

“And the shirt.”

“‘Course.” 

“And… for helping me back in Pottsville. I would never have made it out alive if it weren’t for you.” She was slowly remembering that she was a touchy-feely drunk. Vague memories of confessions and hugs and tearful kisses among friends danced at the fringes of her memory. She also remembered the day he’d come for her bounty, only to fold her in with his crew instead. She was lucky she could cook and shoot.

He shook his head. “You’re a resourceful woman, I think-” 

She placed a hand on his chest, covered by the thick quilt. The rain continued to pound the roof. A thick branch could be heard breaking outside and falling to the wet ground with a thud.

“No,” she said, unconcerned with the storm. 

“No?”

“No. I would’ve died,” she slurred a little. ‘Ah would’ve dahd’, it sounded like. He smiled despite himself. “You saved me.” 

His smile fell. “I helped make you a killer.” 

“You helped me become a survivor.” She drank again from the bottle, imagining it meant something that they shared the mouth of it. “Thank you. For everything.” She was distracted by the sight of his tawny chest hair peeking through the opening of the quilt, shining in the firelight. It took her breath away. She giggled, though if she were honest she felt like drooling. Her hand slowly moved inward, grazing the hair gently with her fingers. They both froze, and both stared at her hand. The wine had settled into her whole body with a hazy, heavy, happiness. Her hand slowly made its way up through the hair on his chest to his neck, along his beard, and eventually to his lips, slightly chapped. 

Fuck,” she breathed. “Are you as drunk as I am?”. 

“Maybe. No use in being fools.” He removed her hand, setting it back in her lap and sighing. He took another swig of wine, “You use that word a lot for a lady, you sure you even know what it means?” He teased.. His eyes felt slow to move. He took another drink, besides.

“If I don’t, are you going to teach me?” He choked on the wine, it nearly went up his nose. Constance didn’t talk like that. She didn’t talk to him like that, least of all. He regretted his words immediately. He did think of her as a lady, softer and sweeter than he deserved. Once his cough had settled he spoke up, trying to be firm.

“No, Miss Constance, I wouldn’t dare do such a thing. I doubt you need a vocabulary lesson from the likes of me.” He was not about to presume. 

“Such a gentleman.” He opted to go back to the wine again, hoping they’d wait away the rest of the night in drunken silence. He knew she was watching him, he could see it out of the corner of his eye. The blanket was starting to feel too warm but he dare not remove it in front of her. Another long drink. “Can I?” she asked. 

“Sure.” He offered the bottle again without looking her in the eye. She didn’t move. He faced her to offer again. She reached out slowly, only to set her hand on his wrist and lower it and the bottle with it to the table. She didn’t take a drink. Instead, she leaned so close he could smell the soap she used. She kissed him open and slow and hot, tongue seeking entrance to his mouth, which was immediately, stupidly granted. With a grunt, he followed her lead, against what little good judgment he had left. He’d imagined her small pillow lips parting for him before, a shameful amount of times. This time was so searingly real. She kissed him with a hunger he never ascribed to her being capable of, tasting the wine on both their tongues. She pulled away; everything about her was breathy and pink and even more dangerous and intoxicating than any liquor. She hummed and moved on to kissing his neck, hastily crawling into his lap. 

“Nnh,” he grunted, “Connie, you are drunk.” 

“So are you.” 

“I’m not too drunk to do you this disservice, ma’am.” She was moving aside the quilt for better access, but he tried weakly to protest. “You’re a nice lady, I’m not-“ 

“You don’t know what kind of lady I am.” She kissed him on the neck again.

Connie-“ Her hands ran lower, causing him to shiver. 

“Arthur,” she sang into the side of his neck. His hands gripped her hips. He meant to lift her off him, but she brought herself down in his lap instead. Again, she kissed him. He tried to keep his moan inside his mouth, but it made its way into hers. In his drunken thinking, he couldn’t quite get himself to care. He’d wanted this or something like this for so long, he couldn’t help but think only of how good she smelled, how she tasted, how she sounded, how soft and firm and good she felt. He hadn’t made love to a woman properly in years. Maybe a decade. He’d fucked ‘em. Paid for ‘em, even. But he wanted to make love to Constance so badly. She was breathing so hard in his ear, slipping the quilt off his bare shoulders. “I’m not gonna be able to tell you no much longer.” 

“Then don’t,” she practically growled, growing impatient with all the fabric they were wrapped in. She sat back up and started fumbling with the buttons on his shirt on her. He’d tried to ignore how it made him feel to see her in it. He had to admit it was just as selfish of him to offer as it was generous. He shooed her hands away and proceeded to take care of them himself. “Why, mister Hill –“ 

He shut her up with a kiss, “That’ll be enough outta you.” He got enough buttons undone to get access to her breasts. Arthur was a fan of breasts in general, but he had to admit these generous ones that filled his hands were his favorite kind. He ran his tongue over the peak he wasn’t kneading with his hand. Her hands raked through his hair, gripping it with near-painful force. He pushed her onto her back and started tasting as much of her as he had access to.

“Arthur I-” She gasped, her hips grinding up underneath him.

“I said no more talk.” His dusty blue eyes were nearly black in the firelight. She surprised him yet again by grabbing his hand and forcing it between her legs without another word. She wasn’t wearing anything at all underneath his shirt. 

“Christ,” he grunted, his drawl molasses slow and sweet under her ear. In his wine-muddled head, he could feel himself getting carried away. “You want me to teach you about fuckin’?” She nodded wildly, her half-dry hair curling along her flushed cheeks. “Seems you might just know enough to get you started.” She was soaking wet, and he wondered how long she’d been sitting there like that, ready for him all the while they talked and laughed. He tested her with a single digit, her response overly positive before he eagerly moved on to two.

“All this for me? What a sweet thing you are.” 

She moaned with a shocking volume while he worked away at her, winding her up like a music box around his fingers beckoning her. He was so used to camp and thin-walled hotels. Out here no one could possibly hear them.

“Good girl. I wanna hear you.”

  She pulled his hair harder. “You said not to talk,” she snarled, gripping his shoulder. 

“Those sounds you’re makin’ sure as hell ain’t talkin’.” He found her clit and gave it generous, circling attention with his thumb, bringing out another lewd cry as she writhed. She could barely open her eyes. She yelled when she came on his fingers and lay panting beneath him for a moment. When she came out of her revelry her expression was, he could only call, tricky. She was panting, the thin sheen of sweat shimming in the firelight. 

“Come’ere’” she whispered. Gently guiding his face up to meet hers for a long, breathless kiss. She slowly ran her hand down his chest, finding his member with her hand easily enough. He grunted.

“Miss Constance, the governess, with her little hand around my cock. Is it what you expected? Do you think I’ll fit?” He struggled to keep himself composed, breathing heavily, panting between phrases. He knew she could tell him to do anything she wanted now. There was a gentleman somewhere in his conscience telling him to lay off. He’d meant what he said when he called Constance a lady. It was far too late for all that, he supposed. She gave him a few good strokes, where she learned how he didn’t know. 

“You drive me crazy,” she said. Before he could respond, she maneuvered him onto his own back, the wine making him slow, both their blankets falling by the wayside. She slid onto him slowly, taking her time. She did wince, but only briefly before she was saddled, causing Arthur to hiss. She gave a few slow, deliberate rocks, testing herself before starting in earnest. He saw the only thing more beautiful than a sunrise over the mountains; a naked woman riding him hard. He was rendered stupid and speechless, but his hands gripped the thick curves of her hips to help keep pace. He loved helping. She gave him no choice but to come inside her. He threw his head back. 

Fuck-” She leaned down and kissed him with her open mouth. 

“When's the next vocabulary lesson, Mister Hill?”






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