No Easy Road
Summary: Set immediately after Serpents.
Author's Note: I'm assuming that Serpents came AFTER Obsession in this story :)
Written for tamrinm who asked for some Chris/Ezra!
February 2009 Choice 2: Smooching challenge - a kissing scene
Meets the May 2010 Mag7WriMo challenge of 5000 words! I had 1450 words already written before I started the 5000 word challenge so my aim was for this story to be at least 6450 words, which I managed :)
"By the way...What are we planning to do with that money?"
Chris had laughed quietly to himself all the way to the saloon. With both Lucius Stutz and his son dead, and with the Governor denying having any part of it, that blood money became the property of those who had found it, and Ezra knew that all too well. It belonged to him, Ezra and Vin though Chris suspected Heidegger would lay claim to it as well as it had been found on his property.
He was still smiling wryly as he sank into a chair near the back of the crowded saloon and nodded his thanks to the barman who dropped off his bottle of whiskey and a shot glass. Buck would be pleased to see he had barely touched the bottle this past week, savoring only a couple of shots the other night before Heidegger and his big mouth had driven him from the saloon. In truth, he'd not been interested in getting drunk since receiving Ella's letter. Perhaps knowing Ella had managed to slip away should have driven him back to the bottle but he'd had plenty of time to think while he was healing from the chest wound. What he discovered was that some part of him was at peace now he had solved the mystery surrounding the murder of Sarah and Adam. It didn't make the pain of losing them any less but it had taken away the black rage from not knowing why Fowler had burned them alive in their home.
He had his answers now and though he wanted to blame himself for what had happened, he knew that lay solely on the shoulders of a twisted woman, one whom he had thought he'd left behind in his youth. Unfortunately, she hadn't seen it the same way but if Chris understood one thing in life it was that insanity had no reasoning behind it.
He took a sip, aware that the others were a little confused that he hadn't headed out the moment he was able to ride a horse but if Ella was wily enough to give an exceptional tracker like Vin the slip then he'd be wasting his time trying to find her. Better to wait on familiar ground for the bitch to come back--and then he'd kill her. And she would come back eventually, of that he was sure. In the meantime, Ella had been right about one thing. If he stayed in this profession then he'd live as poor as a church mouse and die from a bullet sooner rather than later.
If he was willing to go with Ezra's view on that money then he had a chance to change that now.
Vin dropped into the chair opposite but shook his head when Chris indicated towards the bottle. "Me and JD are heading out to Nettie's. Promised we'd help her unload her supplies and fix that corral fence."
Chris had noticed Watson and Potter's stores doing good business as people took advantage of coming into town for the rally to stock up on supplies. Vin smiled wryly and spoke as if he had read Chris's mind.
"Town's been too busy for me these past days." He rubbed his chin awkwardly. "Hell, Chris. Been getting too busy even without the Governor's show."
Chris nodded, reading between the lines. The past couple of days had been fraught to say the least. With a huge number of visitors into the town for the Governor's rally and the threat to Mary's life, Chris had found little time to stop and think about his own future and choices, and how the vote for statehood might affect his role in the town. Certainly the town had grown to the point where it no longer needed hired guns such as himself and the others. It was civilized enough to warrant the return of a sheriff and deputies, due to the railway bringing more people every day.
"You thinking of moving on?"
"Never meant to stay this long."
There was a time when he had said he would go with Vin to Tascosa to help him clear his name but that time was long past. Mary had pieced together enough of a case to defend Vin and had presented it to the Judge a month back, who had granted Vin a pardon.
"Where you thinking of heading?"
"South into Mexico. Less chance of one of them old wanted posters turning up down there."
Chris sighed, sinking deeper into the chair and into the shadows behind him. "Mary's doing her best to get your name cleared all over the territory."
"Yeah." Vin grinned at that and ducked his head as if he was surprised that anyone would do so much for him but the truth was that they were both marked men.
For his own part, he had barely recovered from Handsome Jack's bullet and was stoically ignoring the small twinges of pain when he moved a little too fast or made too sudden a move. He knew the chances were that he'd always have some residual pain, just like he felt the dull ache in his knees and hips during the damp weather, caused by his early years of bronco busting. Chris knew he could still outdraw anyone settled in this town but that train and the opening up of the frontier brought younger gunfighters looking to make a name or a place for themselves.
Perhaps that was another reason why he had been so easily persuaded by Ella, aware that his days as the law in this town were numbered.
"Plan to stay over at Nettie's tonight." Vin rose to his feet.
"Don't go riding off just yet."
Vin nodded, and that was as good as a promise to Chris so he settled back and watched until Vin was swallowed by the crowd only to see Josiah shouldering his way through.
They had all earned their dollar a day over the passed few days but Chris recognized that those days might have been a little easier if Ezra had not been so focused on the blood money, but that was no more than Chris could expect from the gambler and con man. They all had their weaknesses and money was Ezra's so Chris had done his best not to put that temptation in the man's path. He should have known Josiah would take an opposite view and give the man a chance to prove that his greed wouldn't overwhelm his loyalty to the group. That had almost backfired--though Chris was astute enough to realize that his own attitude towards Ezra had not made the best impression. Good intentions held no merit when they belittled the person on the receiving end, and he knew his mocking had screamed a lack of trust. Unfortunately, he had been carrying his own baggage from knowing Stutz and his son had planned to profit from Mary's death in the same way Cletus Fowler had profited from murdering Sarah and Adam.
"Blood money," Josiah stated as he sank down, and Chris wondered when Josiah had become so adept at reading minds. "Enough money to turn the head of a saint." Josiah had brought his own bottle and glass to the table and he sloshed some into the glass now, spilling a little, but Chris could see it wasn't his first drink of the day. "Temptation is a powerful thing, Chris."
Ten thousand dollars was a lot of money. Hell, Ezra was right in that even his share of a eight-way cut--if they gave Heidegger a share--was more money than any of them were likely to have in their lifetime, especially in their line of work. A dollar a day, seven days a week, fifty-two weeks in a year. If he saved every single dollar it would take the best part of four years to earn his share of that ten thousand dollars.
Josiah looked straight at him. "Was tempted by the devil last night."
"That why you gave Ezra the money?"
"We all need to face our demons." He looked down with a self-deprecating scowl. "Guess mine is the demon drink."
Chris snorted softly and recalled Ezra's words after they had found the money. It was the ranch with its horses that had tempted Chris to stay at Ella's side, blinding him to bad memories of the past and the reasons why he had left Ella all those years ago. No doubt he would have remained with her had she not revealed her part in the murder of his family, just to keep a taste of what he had hoped to build with Sarah. Ella had remembered his dreams all too well from the time they were together during those days in his youth when he had helped bust bronco's at her father's small ranch. He had let the intervening years soften Ella in his eyes, allowing him to assume wrongly that she had grown out of her wild, possessive and calculating ways. It hurt more to see his own character flaws revealed--that he had faced his own test of loyalty to the group of peacekeepers and had cast his friends aside without too much thought when a chance for a better life had come along. He'd even driven Vin away when he tried to reveal the ugly truth about Ella Gaines and her association with Handsome Jack. Only the cold hard shock of finding that shrine and all it revealed had brought him back to his senses--almost too late.
He had felt that same shock again today.
Ezra could have died, and Chris could almost believe that Josiah's god had something to do with both saving Ezra's life and giving him redemption at the same time. Certainly Chris was aware that his words and attitude had played a major part in what had driven Ezra to stuffing the money into the lining of his jacket and heading for the stables. Some devil inside him had been trying to drive Ezra away for years even as he pulled him in closer. All of the pain of the past few days had simply put Ezra in the right place at the right time to find the younger Stutz in the crowd. The rest had been down to Ezra. He could have kept on walking and no one but he would have been any the wiser but loyalty had won out over greed when it mattered.
"Lead us not into temptation." Josiah murmured a line from the Lord's Prayer before shoving the bottle and glass aside and rising.
Chris watched him disappear into the crowd, heading towards the street where he would spend the rest of his day making repairs to that church for no reward other than a good day's work in the name of his Lord.
Despite the many gun battles they had faced side-by-side, Chris had never truly believed Ezra would sacrifice himself for no monetary gain. He still didn't understand what had possessed Ezra to walk onto a loaded gun except that he knew Ezra was quick-minded enough to have sized up the situation and play his hand accordingly. If Ezra had grappled for the gun then any one of the citizen's pressed close in the crowd could have been injured or killed. Even if Chris had spotted Stutz before Ezra, neither of them would have had a clean shot through the crowd, and a yell would have simply panicked everyone, sending them stampeding in all directions like a herd of cattle, most likely to Stutz's advantage despite being outnumbered more than seven to one--though, in hindsight, Chris wasn't sure they could have counted on the Governor's men if the Governor had been behind it. Stutz was an assassin who had no reason to pull his shots at innocent bystanders. He could easily have fired into the crowd towards Mary without remorse, uncaring who came into the line of fire as long as he eventually hit his target and earned his money.
What Chris couldn't figure out was how Stutz had planned to escape after killing Mary, or perhaps he had assumed the panicking crowd would give him the cover he needed. After all, if it hadn't been for Liver-Eating Jones, they would never have known the elder Stutz worked with his son, or had a description of the younger Stutz. The glass eye had given him away to Ezra, whose powers of observation were easily a match to Vin's, gained from years of watching for tell-tale signs of weakness in his marks at the gambling table--or in his cons.
Chris played back that moment when Ezra had darted forward between the mass of people listening to the Governor's speech, hearing again the muffled sound of a gunshot. Through the panicked crowd he could still recall the way Ezra had slumped over Stutz. The sound of the crowd had muted beneath the roaring in Chris's ears and the screaming people had faded into fuzzy streaks of color leaving only Ezra in sharp focus, falling in stop-time motion, seen through the gaps of running people like an image captured in one of those magic lanterns. The crowd finally parted as Nathan hurtled in low to get to Ezra, hiding Ezra from view, covering him with his own body and snapping Chris's full attention back onto Stutz and the hostage he had grabbed.
In the heat of the moment, Chris had found no time to examine the strength of his feelings, or the shock and overwhelming sense of grief and rage that had filled him upon seeing Ezra fall. Now, with the buzz of so many voices in the crowded saloon forming a background noise that he had learned to shut out, Chris found himself comparing what he believed was the worst moment in his life and found it held the same horror as less than an hour earlier. He had felt that same terrible realization sinking into his heart and gut today that he had felt when he crested that final hill after seeing the column of smoke rising thickly in the direction of his home all those years ago. That first time he knew he had lost something infinitely precious, and he had blamed himself for a long time afterwards, aware that he had been fornicating with another man while his family burned. This time had felt no different--right up until Nathan pulled out the wads of money that had slowed the bullet that should have killed Ezra.
He didn't want to admit it but that moment explained every churlish comment made to Ezra over the past three years, and every contemptuous thought that seemed so out of odds with that same desire to be close to the man even as he pushed him away. Ezra had always been a puzzle that Chris couldn't solve, an opposite in so many ways and yet he also recognized the similarities that kept them circling each other with intrigue rather than riding away as fast as a horse could carry them. Only Ella had managed to break him out of that dance with Ezra--for a time at least--and now he wondered if, in later years, he might still have come to regret the road he had chosen with Ella even if he had never discovered her part in killing Sarah and Adam. After all, she had seemed the easy path at the time, one leading to him to all that he had lost years earlier--but when had he ever chosen the easy road?
About the only other truth that came out of that disastrous time with Ella was that although he liked Mary Travis, he had not cared enough to make her his wife. He enjoyed Mary's intelligence, her courage and even her beauty, but his heart didn't pound at the thought of her as it had with Sarah--or Ezra. She was a friend--a good and caring friend--but nothing more, and part of him wished she had not turned down the offer of marriage from Gerard. She deserved to be happy and Billy deserved to have a father but he knew, now, that it would never be him.
Buck entered the saloon, his height making him stand out in the crowd, and Chris watched as he cut a path through to the bar for the Governor's ex-assistant. He could see in Buck's face that his old friend was totally smitten with the woman in a way Chris had only ever seen once before--with Hilda, whose beauty was hidden inside until you knew where to look. Chris had always asserted that there was someone special out there for everyone but, despite being the impossible romantic, Buck had considered all women equally special, treating even the coarsest whore as a refined lady. Finally it seemed Buck had met his match, though Chris wondered if that baby-scare a few months back had something to do with the final changes in his friend. It was one thing to be an 'uncle' to another man's child but different entirely to be a father--as Chris had discovered on the birth of Adam. He frowned as another thought hit him. Perhaps that had been another part of his problem with Mary too. Sarah had almost died giving birth to Adam and Chris feared going through the same again--with Mary or any woman, losing another wife and child. Yet there was little satisfaction to be had with whores like Lydia and Maria, seeing them as just a means to scratch an itch rather than a salve for his battered soul.
He needed someone to love but thought no one could ever replace Sarah in his heart. He had to admit to feeling uncomfortable with the knowledge that his heart had other ideas and had seemingly chosen not just another but a man--and not just any man but one who had him spinning in circles with his ten-dollar words and fancy notions.
Buck paused by his table while Ms. Perkins regaled some cow hands.
Chris gave a small grin and teased, "Looks like you're the stud here."
Buck looked back towards Louisa Perkins with a dopey expression before turning to Chris. "I'm gonna marry that woman."
Chris had heard Buck say that same thing on so many occasions but this was the first time he actually meant it. "Congratulations."
Buck grinned and slapped Chris on the back. Louisa paused by the table and smiled courteously before taking Buck's arm. "Mr. Larabee."
He nodded back, content with the way Louisa only had eyes for Buck, and those eyes were full of love requited. She and Buck moved off together to find a table where they could be alone, wearing their hearts on their sleeves. In love. Chris took another sip of the strong liquor, savoring the fire down his throat and the warmth curling into his belly as he swallowed. Buck was finally settling for one woman and Chris knew Buck would follow her wherever she might lead, even if that road led away from this town.
Buck wasn't the only one who needed to face the truth and Chris had never been one to dodge the hard questions. The one which faced him now was exactly what did he feel for Ezra Standish?
He closed his eyes for a moment to bring up an image and was surprised when his first thought was not the flamboyant clothing but Ezra's intelligent, green eyes twinkling in pleasure as he raked in a pot from the gambling table. Ezra's smile lit up a room and Chris had seen many a disgruntled ranch hand soften at that sight and accept their losses with good grace. Hell, even he wasn't unaffected by it, often shaking his head and smiling back wryly. Which led Chris to thoughts of Ezra's soft hands and those agile fingers that could shuffle a deck of cards with well-practiced ease, and the coy glances that would not be out of place on a high class whore. Not that he saw Ezra as some paid companion, though he had wondered in those early days if Ezra would have been amenable to such a proposition if the price was right. Certainly the man was handsome enough to turn the head of many a woman and man whether attired in his fine clothing--or in one of Mrs. Potter's dresses. Chris knew better now. He understood why Ezra had stayed in this dusty town in the middle of nowhere with such meager pickings for a gambler when he could have accompanied his mother to far more prosperous towns and cities--or to the gambling boats on the Mississippi.
Unusually for a gambler and con artist, and unlike his mother who would steal the last coin out of a blind beggar's bowl, Ezra had scruples.
Chris had seen him throw a hand or end a game early just to leave a little money in another man's pocket, or turn down a man desperate enough to try to sign over his homestead just to stay in a game. Of course, when confronted, he would produce a plausible, selfish excuse for his actions that had them all fooled at first--that he wanted them to come back again next month to gamble away their meager wages, that he had no need of a rundown shack and a small piece of dirt. Yet even Nathan was no longer taken in by the act--not since uncovering Ezra's kindness towards the Chinese girl, Li Pong.
However, it was hard to think of Ezra and not see the fancy clothes that cost more than most people could afford to buy around these parts; the green or red tail coat, his linen shirts, silk cravats and brocaded vests--the finery of a well-dressed Southern gentleman and gambler, tailored to perfection. Though Chris had noticed the coats were fraying a little at the cuffs, over the years he had rarely seen Ezra less than immaculately dressed even when out chasing the bad guys, wearing his finery like a shield even though there were times when Chris was concerned that the bright coloring would make him an easier target for a outlaw's bullet--or an assassin's.
Over these past years he had often dreamed of removing those fancy clothes from Ezra--of undoing the mother-of-pearl buttons, of peeling off each layer until he found the man beneath, open and vulnerable, no longer hiding behind his finery and genteel manners. He longed to see Ezra lying desperate beneath him, skin slicked with sweat and the air heavy with the pungency of male arousal. What Chris hadn't banked on was his own feelings going beyond the need to scratch an itch that was rarely given relief for fear of ending up in Yuma prison or dangling from the end of a rope.
He thought he had burned out those wild emotions with the loss of Sarah and Adam years before. He had never expected to feel the same heart-stopping wrench of loss again and yet it had felt like someone had reached in and torn out his heart when he saw Ezra falling to the dusty ground--felled by a bullet from Stutz's gun. All the cold rage of losing Sarah and Adam had returned, and if Stutz had not grabbed a hostage to use as a shield then Chris would have taken him down without a second thought. No leg or shoulder shot. He would have aimed straight for the heart or head.
More movement in the saloon caught his eye but it wasn't until the crowd parted near his table that he saw Ezra with one arm still held in a sling. Ezra inclined his head towards one of spare seats, "May I join you in a libation, Mr. Larabee?"
Chris pushed down on his feelings, aware that he had already revealed too much earlier when he thought Ezra had been killed. He figured he had recovered fast enough when, instead, he met those dazed and pain-filled eyes but now he was not so sure that Ezra had missed the pain in his own eyes that had gone beyond concern for a fellow peacekeeper.
"Ain't like Nathan to let go of a patient so easy," Chris stated softly but indicated with a nod towards the seat on his right before raising his eyes towards the barman, whose keen eyes had already noticed Ezra's arrival but who was waiting for a sign from Chris before making assumptions. A shot glass appeared in front of Ezra and Chris watched as Ezra poured a drink from Chris's bottle.
"Mr. Jackson was his usual solicitous self but admitted it was mere bruising. He offered a pot of some disgusting ointment to ease my discomfort. No doubt the odorous recipe was procured from that Chinese apothecary on the railroad, the contents of which I might best remain in ignorance."
Chris felt his lips twitch in a smile at the way Ezra screwed up his nose as he referred to the strong smell of an ointment that even his fancy colognes could not overpower. Leaning in and taking a small experimental sniff, Chris's smile widened a fraction when he caught a waft of it in the air, but beneath the odor was another rich scent of cologne and sweat that had his body betraying an interest in Ezra that went far beyond the Platonic. When he glanced back up at Ezra, he caught a strange look on the man's face--contemplation and intrigue--and knew for certain that he had been found out. Instead of repugnance, Ezra's lips twitched as he raised the shot glass, toasting him subtly before sipping at the whiskey. His nose scrunched up again, probably because this wasn't the more expensive whiskey that Ezra preferred. He licked his lips, nose still scrunched.
"I have in my possession a far superior liquor procured the last time I was in...more civilized society. Perhaps you might care to join me upstairs, Mr. Larabee."
The clear green eyes had locked onto Chris and he could see this was no simple request to join Ezra for a drink. Ezra's eyes dropped to his mouth, making Chris realize that he was worrying his lower lip as he considered Ezra's offer, knowing that this was no idle proposition. A soft exhalation was a rare tell from the normally unflappable gambler, proving that the interest went both ways. For a moment Chris was inclined to shrug it off. He could pretend nothing untoward existed between them, and reduce his fear of where it all might lead but his mind played out the sight of Ezra falling onto Stutz's gun and then to the dusty ground, and he recalled his words to Nathan all those months ago. He was many things but he hoped he might never be considered a hypocrite.
'Cause you lost them, are you sorry you ever had them?
He had never regretted a single moment spent with Sarah and Adam, and if he had been there on the night of the fire then he would have burned with them willingly. Was this so different even if Ezra was a man?
Chris no longer believed in Josiah's god so he had no fear of burning in Hell for his sins. And what was one more sin anyway? He had already broken several of those Ten Commandments that Josiah spouted. He had killed men that he could have wounded instead; he had paid no mind to the days of the week as he built first his ranch with Sarah and later his shack just outside of the town. He had coveted those fine horses at Ella's ranch, knowing they would produce good stock that could be sold for a fine profit. He had committed adultery, betraying his marriage vows and convincing himself at the time that it would only mean something had he taken a woman to bed rather than leaned back to enjoy a quick release from a man's hand or mouth. Since Sarah's death he had slept with married women too, though Maria's husband was more interested in the money his wife earned than in her marital vows and Lydia had run from her husband many years earlier after he took to beating her for no reason. Hell, he'd committed sodomy on more than one occasion with an older ranch hand in the darkness of the bunkhouse in his youth, being taken in return. In later years, following Sarah's death, he had given in to his lust occasionally, recalling the darkening shadows behind a saloon in a dead-end town in the middle of nowhere, where he bent a nameless, faceless man over a wooden box and listened to the man's grunts of pleasure, muffled by the bandanna, as Chris pounded into him.
Ezra was still waiting for a response so Chris smiled slightly and nodded, indicating for Ezra to go first. He poured another drink and sipped at it slowly, wanting to wait a respectable amount of time before following, barely able to keep his eyes from drifting over Ezra's sturdy figure as the man climbed the stairs to the private room he kept above. Catching the barman's eye, Chris pushed up from the table and headed out the main door, knowing the bottle would be placed back behind the bar and left untouched until he returned another night. No one paid him any mind as he walked into the alley between the buildings and headed for the back stairs, climbing them swiftly and moving along the corridor quietly until he reached Ezra's door. His knock was answered immediately and he stepped inside to find a bottle and two shot glasses set out on the small table.
"Not come here for whiskey, Ezra."
The tension eased out of Ezra as he turned to pour two shots, handing one to Chris with a smile playing about his lips. "An appetizer then. A small taste of luxury...with greater pleasures to come."
Chris took a sip. It was good--far better than the rotgut liquor sold downstairs to a less discerning customer such as himself. Locking the door behind him, Chris drew off his hat and laid it on the table next to the whiskey bottle and his still half full glass while Ezra drew the curtains even though it was unlikely that anyone might see them. He watched as Ezra picked up the second glass and sipped appreciatively. Chris ran a hand through his hair to sweep back the strands that tried to fall across his eyes and saw Ezra's glass freeze partway to his lips. There was no mistaking the intensity in his eyes, full of hunger, want and need. Putting down the glass, Ezra removed the sling carefully, rolling his shoulder gently before reaching down to remove first one gun and then another, placing them on top of the dresser before unbuckling his gun belt. Chris added his gun rig to the small pile before stepping into Ezra's personal space, intent on fulfilling one particular fantasy as he loosened the silk cravat and two top buttons of the shirt to expose Ezra's throat. Unable to resist any longer, though aware Ezra might push him away when he realized his new intent, Chris leaned in and pressed his lips against Ezra's. For a moment Ezra remained motionless, eyes wide with shock, and Chris wondered if he had ever shared a kiss with a man before this day. Certainly Chris rarely kissed another man despite his many encounters over the years, but Ezra was no stranger met in a darkened alley, where Chris preferred to use his mouth only on what lay inside the other man's britches and have that man's mouth only on his hard flesh in return.
It had been too many years since he allowed himself time to explore another man's body.
In the next moment Ezra seemed to melt against Chris, lips firming as he kissed back, one hand rising to tangle in Chris's hair, holding him fast. Any remaining doubts flowed away with the increasing depth of the kiss, with lips parting in acceptance, tongues colliding and playing, discovering that illicit taste and touch of each other as passion blazed between them. Chris felt the vibration of Ezra's contented moan, felt it resonate deep inside him, igniting the blood racing through his veins.
They drew apart only when Chris forgot Ezra's bruised ribs, holding him too tight. Ezra pulled back with a hiss.
"Let me see," Chris whispered raggedly while stepping back, and after a moment's hesitation, Ezra carefully stripped off his shirt to reveal the large, ugly bruise spread over his left rib cage. Chris hummed softly. It looked no different to a kick he'd once received after tumbling off a horse he was trying to break. Chris reached out and traced the outline with the lightest touch. Ezra was lucky to be alive, and equally lucky he hadn't bust a rib or two. The smell of ointment was stronger now but Chris had grown used to the smell long ago from when Nathan had treated his muscular aches and bruises in the past.
"I suspect I might not be up to anything too strenuous this evening," Ezra murmured.
Chris grinned, deciding against teasing Ezra that this would be nothing new, well aware that the man hated any form of manual labor. Instead he let his fingers brush over a nipple, enjoying the quickly indrawn breath that told him Ezra was one of those men who was sensitive to touch. "Maybe you should lie back then. Let me do the work."
Ezra grinned before complying, light through a crack in the drawn curtain glinting off the gold tooth momentarily.
Chris took his time gently caressing skin that was almost as smooth as a woman's, lapping at the pert nipples as his hands dipped lower to ease open the pants. He encouraged Ezra to shift, to raise his hips as Chris slowly undressed him, paying attention to every inch of bare skin revealed until he had Ezra sprawled naked across the feather bed open and vulnerable, exactly the way Chris wanted him. Soft moans of pleasure fell unguarded from Ezra's lips as Chris turned his attention to the hard column of flesh, wrapping his hand around the base and licking slowly up the length to swirl around the tip. A familiar bittersweet taste burst on his tongue, heightening Chris's pleasure and he pulled back. Ezra gave a disgruntled sound as Chris stood up, opening his eyes to mere slits that widened in appreciation as he watched Chris strip out of his now too-tight pants, only stopping when he was as naked as Ezra. A tiny thrust of hips was all the demand Ezra made and Chris chuckled at the already debauched look that Ezra wore so well, wishing he could always use this more pleasurable method of getting Ezra to shut up. Of course, when Chris didn't immediately go back to where he had left off, Ezra frowned and broke his silence.
"I believe I am in need of your attention, Mr. Larabee."
Chris leaned in and licked a stripe from base to tip. "I've got you all naked and wanting, Ezra. Figure you can call me Chris."
"I can assure you, I have several more names I will call you if--"
Ezra broke off on a strangled gasp as Chris sank down on the hard shaft, hollowing his cheeks as he sucked hard, careful not to scrape his teeth along the sensitive flesh. Hearing Ezra lose his command over all those expensive words, reduced to a gibbering wreck, sent fresh desire coursing through Chris. He could feel the tension growing in Ezra's body, could feel the tiny abortive thrusts as Ezra tried to encourage Chris to take him over the edge into ecstasy. He knew when Ezra was close, teetering on that fine edge, but the devil in him made Chris pull off again. He looked up through the sweaty strands of his hair, seeing Ezra equally disheveled and flushed, almost wild-eyed with need but Chris wanted more than a taste of Ezra. He wanted to feel Ezra deep inside him, giving him something no woman could do for him--something he had allowed from only one other in the distant past yet never forgotten. Glancing around, Chris's eyes lighted on the no doubt expensive lotion Ezra used to keep his hands as soft as befitting a man who abhorred all signs of manual labor. The murmured protest cut off with a soft "Oh my," when Chris knelt back on the bed, straddling Ezra's hips carefully to avoid the dark bruises, and slid the coated fingers into his own body. It felt so good and he arched his back, driving the fingers in just right to loosen the tight muscle, seeking out that particular spot that would leave him tingling and gasping in pleasure. He forced open his eyes and looked down, grinning wildly at Ezra's pleasure-glazed and stunned expression before taking Ezra in hand and lowering himself onto the hard shaft. Chris hissed at the welcome burn as he was breached, holding Ezra's awe and desire-filled gaze as he sank slowly all the way down until he was cradled tight against Ezra.
He felt so wondrously full even as his muscles burned from being stretched, as if he had been empty for far too long.
Long moments passed while Chris reveled in the fullness and adjusted to the pressure inside him. Eventually the strong fingers of Ezra's hand dug into his thigh and he rose up smoothly before sinking back down, dragging a guttural moan of pleasure from him with each rise and fall, echoed by Ezra as Chris brought them both slowly to a glorious release that sent a bolt of pleasure up his spine before exploding behind his closed eyes in blinding white light. With trembling thigh muscles, he collapsed to the right side of Ezra's sturdy body, wanting to avoid putting any weight near that gun shot bruise on the left, and feeling the warm slickness of spent seed dribbling from him as Ezra's softening shaft slipped from his body.
Several minutes passed in strangely companionable silence as they both regained their breathing and their senses. Chris turned his head to face Ezra when he felt gentle fingers stroking through his now-sweaty hair. Before he could speak soft lips pressed against his and Chris moaned into the gentle, reaffirming kiss, enjoying the lazy play of tongue and nibbling teeth as they let that heavy lassitude drift over their spent bodies. When he drew back he looked Ezra in the eyes and smiled at the warmth and tiredly sated expression he found in them.
"Mr--" Ezra paused, kiss-swollen mouth curving into a soft smile. "Chris."
Chris leaned in and kissed him again, luxuriating in the way Ezra melted into the kiss once more, replacing passion with a deep abiding affection. He pulled back a fraction, and smiled evilly. "Next time, you get to do all the work," Chris stated softly as his fingers trailed over Ezra's smooth, sweaty skin.
"Next time?" The smile curved upwards as Ezra found his answer, with green eyes dancing in heightened pleasure. "Next time I will partake most enthusiastically."
Chris shivered at the promise in those eyes, uncaring if Ezra intended to ride him next time, letting Chris feel of the power of possessing another man, or if he planned to press Chris into the bedding, pinned beneath him as he slid deep inside Chris. Either was good.
He watched as Ezra's eyes fluttered closed, the smile still playing about his lips and crinkling the skin around his eyes as his breathing eased into sleep, exhausted by the events of the day and his close shave with death. Beside him, Chris took a moment to gently brush over the dark bruise covering Ezra's ribs, aware of how close he had come to never having this moment with Ezra. Eventually Chris stilled his fingers, leaving his arm draped over Ezra's stomach. He closed his eyes, breathing in deeply the scent of their passion-sated bodies--of sweat and musk. Chris knew he ought to rise from the bed and wash away the stickiness that still seeped from his well-used body, aware that he might not be so comfortable in a few hours time but until this moment he had forgotten how much he had loved this feeling of possession. He had denied himself this one pleasure for far too many years, not wanting to hand so much power and control over to a stranger in return for a few sweaty minutes of pleasure.
His eyes snapped open as he heard booted footsteps pass outside the door in the corridor beyond but they carried on without faltering, accompanied by lighter footsteps and the giggles of ne of the saloon's whores. Chris knew that what he and Ezra were doing was dangerous, and would likely see both of them hanged or imprisoned if caught like this, and part of him wondered if it was even possible to hide what they had found with each other from the prying eyes of others. In a small town such as this where everyone seemed to know everyone else's business, their chance of being discovered was too high. Eventually someone would notice that they disappeared at the same time of the day, or would notice him slipping into or from Ezra's room at strange hours, or wonder why Ezra was visiting him in his room at the boarding house. Or they would ponder why someone as fussy as Ezra would leave the comfort of his feather mattress to bed down on the wooden floor in Chris's shack or on the hard ground or even one night without good cause.
The blood money could help. It opened up possibilities that were denied to them otherwise. It could give them a reason to move from the confines of the small town without attracting undue attention. Perhaps they could buy a small horse ranch like Ella's, with a house splendid enough to please someone of Ezra's more highly developed appreciation of the finer things in life, but large and ostentatious enough to fool others into believing that they kept separate rooms.
Still, no matter what road they took Chris knew a difficult path lay before them if they intended to have a next time--and a time after that--but then, when he thought about their pasts he had to wonder if either of them had ever taken the easy road through life.
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