First Kiss

by Scotty Scott

Part Seven - Ezra
Aware that his turn was coming, Ezra had prepared his version of his First kiss for his fellow companions, and the fact that it wasn’t entirely true went undetected, until …..

"Her skin was like peaches and cream and so soft that it took my breath away. I couldn’t believe that I was actually touching Miss Cecilia Johnston from Boston."

"Hey," interrupted Buck as he stared at Ezra in surprise "That the gal who was a millionaire's daughter, and she was rich in her own right too?"

"Yes, Mr. Wilmington," replied Ezra, with surprise clearly showing on his usually blank poker face. "May I ask your acquaintance with her?"

"Hell Ez….." Buck guffawed with laughter. "Don’t you remember?"

"Clearly Mr. Wilmington, if I remembered what you were referring too, I would have replied in the affirmative. Would you please explain?"

Buck rose from his seat and clamped a hard hand down onto Ezra’s shoulder. Everyone’s eyes were fixed on the two men. Ezra's face still showed surprise and Buck grinned broadly as if he was about to pull some kind of joke on Ezra.

"Ezra the reason I know all about the most beautiful, luscious, Miss Cecilia Johnston is all because of you and if I remember …." Buck stared straight into Ezra's eyes, and his eyebrows wiggled with delight at the picture of surprise on the gambler's face.

Ezra sat and squirmed, wondering how on earth Buck knew about Miss Cecilia. He gulped anxiously and wondered how he had been found out. Did Buck know he was lying?

"It was when we were in Eagle Bend waiting for that prisoner transfer about 3 months ago…." Buck reminded him. Ezra thought back to that particular incident, then a spark of sudden memory sprang to his mind, and the horror of what he did hit him. He broke into a sweat and knew his plan had backfired on him. He had planned not to divulge his first kiss but to recount a much later experience instead. But, he had forgotten that he had gotten drunk and had related this already to Buck, so Buck knew he was lying and …….

"Ah, now you remember, Ez?" Buck chuckled aloud and shook the gambler by his shoulders as Ezra groaned, aware that his subterfuge has been discovered.

Ezra wished the ground would swallow him up, and he felt all eyes burning into him. He didn't even have to look to know that a pair of green eyes would be glaring much darker than the rest. He was alerted to this fact by the growl that arose from his illustrious leader.

"Well Ezra, ya been lying ta us?" Larabee focused his blackest look onto the gambler.

"Forgive me Mr…" Ezra started to apologize.

"Jesus, Ezra, "shouted Nathan angrily. "We all told the truth about ourselves."

"Yeah, Ez, why’d ya lie?" asked Vin glowering, openly angry at his friend and wondering why he didn’t just fess up with the truth, or was it something he didn’t wish them to know about?

"Ezra, my story was real hard to tell," sighed Josiah, rubbing his hand over his face then through his hair. "Couldn’t stop it from happening, but I am not ashamed of myself." Josiah leaned across calmly and touched Ezra's hand lightly and squeezed his fingers. "Ezra, we are friends around this table. We all trust one another to watch our backs. We are a family and family has no secrets. Anything you say will remain between only us, it's not for repeating."

Ezra flinched under Josiah’s touch, and he has bowed his head to avoid eye contact with the angry faces that were all directed toward him. He had let them all down - again. He was aware of their growing trust in him over recent months, and he knew he could trust them, but personal details such as his first kiss, he hadn’t divulged to anyone before. A sudden revelation popped into his mind; then it hit him like a bullet from a gun.

He raised his head and sorted himself out to sit straighter and look more openly towards his friends - his family for the first time. He hoped they knew he was being sincere for once in his ill-spent life.

"Gentlemen I apologize…." He started hesitantly at first, disbelieving voices interrupted his string of words, but Chris halted them with a raised hand that signaled silence so Ezra could speak. Chris could see clearly that the Gambler had opened up to them now, for the very first time. He sure wasn’t going to allow anyone to stop Ezra Standish, once he had trusted them enough to start speaking directly from his heart for the first time.

"Thank you, Mr. Larabee. I must apologize for my earlier….ramblings, like Mr. Wilmington said, he is aware of Miss Cecilia Johnston as I related an account of one of our interludes to him while under the influence at Eagle Bend."

"Yep," chuckled Buck. "You were so drunk, Ez, you opened up like a babe."

"Well, sorry I did lie to you all, the actual first kiss I encountered was not …..favorable for me….but….as you all have been honest with your own personal experiences, I feel the only honorable thing to do is to account truthfully to you all about my first proper kiss, and may I add I have never revealed this to anyone before."

They knew that Ezra planned to reveal a little of himself never before viewed by anyone, and they agreed silently with a glance that they should listen to him without interruption or comment.

Larabee filled all the glasses once again with whiskey, all except JD who got some more beer. All were extremely attentive, listening to Ezra who was not using his ten-dollar words so much as he began to relax.

"Maude, my Mother, had once again left me for a while at an acquaintance’s home…." Ezra grinned. "My blood kin, I fear, had become negative toward our showing up on their door steps continuously looking for accommodations. So, Mother in her wisdom had taken me to one of her old school friend's homes instead. We had only been…….Ezra’s thoughts slipped back to the past and recalled the details.

"Now, darling, remember to behave this time. No, Ezra. Don’t pout like that. You're not a little child anymore." Maude flicked her hand to slap at his shoulder at his grimace of disdain at having to behave at a stranger's house once again.

They sat in the carriage that Maude had rented for show, and only for that afternoon, to drop them both outside the home of Mrs. Veronica Le Bouttlier, a wealthy widow and considered to be a close friend of Mrs. Maude Standish.

The house was very impressive. The grounds were well maintained and looked like they had a reasonable stable of horses. Ezra walked in, following his mother's enthusiastic welcome from her old friend, and he tried to maintain his best polite manners for his mother's sake. All went well for a week or so, until Maude had been flattered by a rich gentleman’s attentions, and the gentleman wished to have her all to himself. This of course as usual, did not include Ezra. A heated debate resulted between Maude and her friend Veronica as to the prospect of Maude’s dalliance with Sir James Love, currently visiting America from England.

Ezra waved at his departing mother, as instructed by Veronica, but he wasn’t happy about it. Veronica, although upset at his mother’s abandonment of him at first, changed after a couple of days and Ezra became more than a little uncomfortable at the lady’s attentions to his own person.

Ezra broke off his story at this point to get another bottle of whisky from behind the bar, and instead of bringing a single bottle he picked up two from his own stock. He knew he would probably need a stiff drink, or three, to finish the account of his first kiss to his friends.

"Hey, Ez….." Buck pointed to the bottles on his return. "That the good stuff?"

"Yes, Mr. Wilmington it is indeed, as you refer to it, the Good Stuff." Ezra opened the bottle and poured out a large drop into all his friend's glasses but skipped JD. Then he hesitated, hovering near his empty beer glass. "Mr. Dunne, would you like to sample some of the best Scotch Whiskey ever distilled?"

JD grinned openly at Ezra and pondered for a second or two before nodding his head. "Thanks Ezra, don’t really like whiskey all that much, but I’ll try it."

All watched as JD picked up his glass to sip the alcohol. They waited for his reaction to the good stuff and saw him cringe for a second, then grin broadly after a small taste.

"Hey, is it meant to do that?"

"Do what in particular, Mr. Dunne?" Ezra asked, puzzled.

"It didn’t burn the back of my throat. It was real smooth."

The men broke into chuckles at his innocent remark. "Kid," Buck slapped him on the shoulder. "It is the good stuff that goes down real smooth and the rot gut, our usual stuff, that nips the throat worse than a dose of Nathan’s cure all."

"Hey!!" shouted Nathan, but he was still amused at the ribbing he was getting.

They settled down, talking quietly between them, when Ezra cleared his throat for their attention. Silence fell as they waited for him to continue to reveal all.

Veronica Le Bouttlier was a childless widow and extremely wealthy, with many suitors wishing to share her fortune. She was a headstrong lady in her middle thirties, and she enjoyed the freedom that widowhood had brought her. Ezra filled them in on the background, before he got to the point in hand.

"How old were ya?" asked, JD noticing that Ezra hadn’t revealed that fact to them yet.

"Oh, around 14 …." He hesitated too long with his reply he was sure, because a cough from Chris brought his eyes level to the blonde's and made Ezra close his eyes in resignation to speak the truth once more. He had obviously been caught. "No," continued Ezra without anyone except Vin noticing his look at Chris, "I know for sure I was 16 years old."

"Ez…..that like what Josiah said, what was it…sweet sixteen…."

"Yes, Mr. Dunne," Ezra replied and broke out into a chuckle that was quickly picked up by the rest of the group. "In this case, yes, JD. You're right, I was sweet sixteen and at that point had never been kissed."

"What da ya know……ya must have been older then when ya…." Buck grinned and wiggled his eyebrows furiously, teasing Ezra further and even making the gambler blush, which added more to the laughter.

"Yes, ….huh hum…." Ezra interrupted Buck before he could get started and cleared his throat. The glow of embarrassment on his face was now clearly visible to all. "But, thankfully, Mr. Wilmington that is NOT the question you wished an answer too on this occasion."

"Sorry Ez, I’ll save that one for another day," chortled Buck, earning him a glower from all in the room. "Whoa….only kiddin’!" grinned back a innocent looking Buck Wilmington. Those who knew him well, knew that he wouldn’t forget it either, and that could mean more trouble for them all.

"I had been alone with her for nearly a week when…."

Ezra had been getting changed for dinner when without any ceremony Veronica stepped unbidden into his bedroom. The fact that it had caught Ezra unaware was a shock to him, but to add to his shock was the fact that he was standing there in only his drawers.

"Why Ezra, I thought you would have been already dressed by now," Veronica spoke softly, still advancing toward him. He was rooted to the spot holding his trousers in front of him, as if for protection and to conceal himself from her view. He was red with embarrassment from head to toe; even his ears blushed. Never before had any female seen him in a state of undress, except his mother, and he had shunned this attention from her since he was old enough to bathe and dress himself at around six years of age.

"Aunt Veronica, please!" His voice rose under stress and was still slightly high, since his voice had only recently broken.

"Oh, Ezra, you're a fine young man," she advanced more until she stood right in front of him. "You're not shy of your aunt now are you?"

"No," he rushed the word out too fast and then instantly regretted it as she tugged at his pants to try to free them from his hold. "No!" he groaned, and he fumbled to retain hold without pushing her over.

"Ezra!" Veronica shouted angrily, as a loud tearing sound came from the pants they were both tugging at.

"Aw, hell," Ezra groaned to himself, and he felt her advance on him as the torn garment dropped to the floor. She meant trouble; he could see it in her eyes. There was the same blackness to her eyes that men exuded when they made a play for Maude. He had seen it too many times, and he spotted the danger that other young men may have missed when as inexperienced as he was. But, fortunately in this instance he knew how to get out of it and extracted himself just as he had seen his mother do on numerous occasions. He never before thought he would be thankful to his mother for help.

He reacted quickly to her advances and dropped himself as if to retrieve the torn garment from the floor to avoided the touch of her searching hands. He lunged for his wardrobe and before Veronica could reach him he had tugged himself into another pair of trousers. Feeling a little safer, he tugging at a shirt and managed to have it nearly on when she growled and advanced toward him once again.

"Ezra, I don’t wish to hurt you; just a little kiss is all I desire, that’s all," she pouted and dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief in an attempt to sway him into trusting her again. "Ezra, you're a fine young man, and obviously Maude has brought you up really fine to be a gentleman…."

"Aunt Veronica…" Ezra puffed, as he caught his breath and tried to calm his heart rate. His reaction to her advances had made him feel tired and breathless for some unknown reason, and he tried to calm himself. Maybe Veronica was just lonely, and if she indeed only wished one kiss, would that be too much to ask of him? "Aunt Veronica, I promise I will allow you one kiss but…. Please, let me get dressed first, and like the gentleman my mother taught me to be, I will escort you into dinner and after a pleasant evening I will take my leave with a kiss….would that suit your …..needs?" He hoped his voice sounded calmer than he felt. He was struggling to remain calm as she watched him without saying a word until he had finished.

"My, my, Ezra, Maude should consider herself proud to have a son like you…..but…." she tossed her head and looked down at her handkerchief then made her decision. "I will see you at 8pm for dinner downstairs, Ezra."

To Ezra's surprise, she walked out of the room without a backward glance, and he was left standing with his mouth open, amazed that it worked.

Climbing out of the quickly donned clothing, Ezra locked his door to ensure that he would not be interrupted again and dressed for dinner, paying particular attention to detail as his Mother has taught him. "Looks mean everything Ezra." he heard her voice invade his thoughts.

Veronica introduced Ezra to his fellow guests for dinner and the evening progressed well, with no embarrassing reference to their previous meeting. Ezra was pleased to be included in with the adults and relaxed. He began to enjoy himself for the first time, without his mother's fussing or his other relations interfering.

After all the guests left Veronica smiled broadly at him, and to Ezra’s surprise she thanked him.

"Thank you so much, Ezra. You conducted yourself beautifully. My guests were very impressed with my nephew."

"Thank you Ma’am, pleased to have been assistance." He grinned openly with his green eyes twinkling, pleased to have someone say he wasn’t doing something wrong.

Veronica took his arm and led him to the stairs. He stiffened slightly, suddenly scared of what she was might do next.

"Ezra," Veronica stopped and turned him to face her. "Forgive me please for my earlier actions." She sounded sad to Ezra as she continued to explain to him. "I did not mean to intrude on your privacy like that. I was out of order in acting… I did." She took his hand into hers and looked into his eyes with pain clearly showing on her face. "I got a telegram from your mother this afternoon, and Maude will be calling to pick you up tomorrow around noon."

"Mother….. but, I thought…." muttered Ezra.

"Yes, I thought you would be here for a while too," Veronica sighed. "It was just after I got the telegraph message that I burst into your room uninvited …. I have enjoyed your company so much….just got a shock because I had thought you would be with me for a little longer…. Sorry, I panicked."

Ezra realized she was indeed lonely, and she couldn’t trust anyone with her large fortune at risk. He felt awkward and was unsure of what to do….he could suggest to his mother that he could stay, but knowing his mother….for her to come back so soon …something must have gone wrong…or he was needed for a plan to extract money from someone.

Veronica recognized the turmoil in the young man’s head and inquired of him. "Ezra does she treat you right?"

"Yes, of course Mother does," although he knew it was a lie. But, he had been indoctrinated from a young age to believe that no matter what pain she caused, it was for a reason, so she said. If he felt pain, then he was not in control, and to be a man he must be in control of all his emotions at all times.

"Aunt Veronica, if I am to leave tomorrow, please excuse me as I have some packing to do." He extracted himself from her hand and bounded up the stairs to his room to pack, but in his haste he forgot to lock his door.

He had his small trunk open on his bed when Veronica appeared in his doorway. She didn’t enter, just stood watching him deftly packing his own personal items into the case.

Ezra’s hair had stood up at the back of his neck, and he was aware he was being watched. He knew she was there, but he maintained his calm exterior and continued packing without allowing Veronica to become aware she had been spotted.

He had closed the trunk and set it off the bed, before she made a step toward him. She cleared her throat to announce her presence to him. "Ezra my dear, I shall indeed be sorry to see you depart, but if you should ever wish to make a return visit….. even without your Mother…. you shall be made most welcome."

Oh, yes, Ezra was indeed sure of that by the look in her eyes. He gulped at the thought and cleared his throat to thank her. He needed to try to get out of this situation before anything untoward happened.

"Ezra, goodnight." Veronica held out her hand, and Ezra being the gentleman politely kissed the back of her hand.

"Good night, Aunt Veronica." He thought she would leave, but she stood staring at him and that made him nervous again. "Is there anything else, Aunt Veronica?" He innocently asked, not realizing the mess he was about to step into.

"Oh, indeed Ezra, please drop the aunt just call me Veronica, and we have some unfinished business or have you forgotten?"

No, he hadn’t. He gulped once more and blushed as he tried to back away, but he tripped over his trunk and landed heavily, sitting on the bed. Before he could recover himself, Veronica took this opportunity to pin the young man under her well-developed figure, With a strength Ezra was amazed to discover, and to his annoyance, she managed to pin him down with her body holding him prisoner.

Her face was only an inch or two away from his, and he broke out into a sweat. He couldn’t find his voice to rebuff her attentions.

"Ezra, I am now going to claim that kiss you mentioned earlier, and you did promise the one kiss; that is all I agreed to, and that is what I will take."

Ezra nearly panicked as her face closed in on his, but as she brushed her mouth over his lips, she was gentle and her tenderness surprised him. His heart was thudding wildly and his pulse raced, as her mouth continued gently teasing and nipping at his lower lip until she had teased him into relaxing and opening his mouth slightly. Not experienced at all, he allowed her to take the lead, and to his utter astonishment he began to relax and enjoy the feel of the warm soft lips on his. He had not expected the probing tongue that gently forced itself into his mouth, exploring gently and with patience. His eyes bulged in shock and surprise, but he also felt his own body reacting to the kiss. He wished to remain calm in case he thoroughly embarrassed himself, not that he wasn’t exactly embarrassed at this particular moment.

Veronica's tongue slipped around and caressed his own, urging his own to join in the playful battle. She deepened the kiss, leaving Ezra gasping for breath, but before he could start to struggle for oxygen she broke free. Without a word or a backward glance, she left him lying there, weak and breathless, and utterly amazed at what had just happened. HE HAD JUST BEEN THOROUGHLY KISSED BY A WOMAN OLDER THAN HIS MOTHER……AND HE HAD LIKED IT!

Finally, he got his breath back and got the will to get up and lock his door. He wouldn’t open it again until his mother called for him, even if it meant missing breakfast.

The men around the table joined in with Ezra’s laughter as he related the final details of his story.

"Ya ever see her again?" Vin asked.

"No, although I was sent invitations regularly for Christmas, but…."

"Didn’t have the energy?" Buck asked.

"Didn’t like older women?" JD added.

"Didn’t have the balls." Chris finally interrupted, when they all had tried to speak at once. Chris’s words had them all howling with laughter, and Ezra stared open mouthed at Chris Larabee.

"Hey Ez, don’t do that….!" JD said with a grin.


"Yes…." He said, laughing in hysterics, "That…." JD wiped tears away from his face. "Ez…you're doing an imitation of me!"

"You look like a landed fish, Ez," howled Buck, holding his sides as tears flowed down his cheeks from the laughter.

Realizing how he must look to them all, Ezra closed his mouth quickly. This just sent them all over the edge and he couldn't help but join in. After all, they were family and families share. It was his turn to join in the fun without caring what he looked or sounded like for once, and he had thoroughly enjoyed it.

Part Eight - JD

Buck stared hard at the kid sitting next to him and nudged his arm with his elbow. He couldn’t help but break out into a grin at the red flush that appeared on JD’s face as he taunted him. "Come on, JD, gonna to tell us about your first kiss?" Buck chuckled along with the others and nudged JD again. "Going to tell us about Casey eh? (nudge) eh? (nudge) eh?"

JD stifled a groan and knew that they all assumed that his first kiss had been with Casey, but she hadn’t been his first kiss. That’s why he didn’t wish to mention names or when it happened, but the others had given their ages. How could he get out of this fix and would they tell Casey? He would have to bribe them all to silence or else…..

"Come on, JD, cat got your tongue….or…" Buck’s words were cut off by JD’s rushed retort.

"Wasn’t Casey."

Six faces looked at JD, some open mouthed and staring, and Buck dropped a "What?" with a gasp of surprise. They knew JD wanted to be last, but thought it was due to his youth and lack of experience with women, and that he only recently had his first real girlfriend.

"Leave him alone, Buck…let him talk, go on son," encouraged Josiah and reassured JD by stating, "Nothing you say will be passed around."

"JD." grunted Chris Larabee to get the young man’s attention, and JD reluctantly looked up into his leader's eyes. He expected to see a harsh glare directed his way but found only a gentleness that puzzled him.

"Don’t worry about Casey, she won’t hear a word from any of us and that’s a promise!" Feeling much more at ease, JD leaned back into his chair and took his hat from his head and fiddled with it while he told his story.

"It was when Ma was still alive," he began and let the words roll from his mouth. JD was never lost for words, and as he told his first kiss story all his friends around the table wondered how he could breathe, because he never appeared to draw a breath.

It had all happened one day when he was a stable boy at the mansion where his mother worked. It was when a party of rich ladies and gentlemen was visiting for the Christmas celebrations. JD was keeping an eye on the horses in the stables, but he kept out of the way of the visitors as they patrolled around the grounds poking into all sorts of places. He had been told firmly by his mother earlier that day…

"Now John, promise me you won’t get into trouble….you know what happened last time…don’t want a repeat performance."

JD couldn’t help but grin at the memory. He remembered he had pushed one of the rich guest's children into a water trough, sort of accidentally on purpose, and he had gotten a severe whupping for it, not only from the boy's father but also from his own Ma.

"Take that smirk off your face John Dunne, or I will take you across my knee right now!" His Ma had roared at him, but he recognized the chuckle behind her words and couldn’t help but grin back.

"Sorry Ma, I will try to behave. I'll stay in the stables and keep out of anyone’s way unless I get hollered at to help with something."

"Good boy, now come over here and kiss your Ma. I’m late and have to get to Mrs. Bank’s because she needs extra help with the food preparation today. Millie is sick again." After getting a kiss from her son, she departed and JD finished his breakfast before heading for the stables.

The mucking out was done before any of the mansion’s guests were up and about, and JD got a chance to exercise some of the horses. When he returned, he headed off into the tack room to start on some harness repairs before re-cleaning all the tack.

"You finished in there yet boy?" boomed the voice of Jim Naylor, the new Stable Manager who had taken a liking to JD, but that was more due to the fact that he was trying to become friendly with his mother.

"Nearly, Mr. Naylor. Just got some buffing up to do and I will be done!"

"Good lad! Now, I want you to supervise that lot…." He pointed over his shoulder with his thumb , "…..out there, make sure they pick horses that won’t kill them….the Master wants me to drive a couple of the ladies into town for last minute Christmas shopping or some such!"

"Want to swap?" JD grinned knowingly at Naylor and got a cuff on the shoulder for his cheek.

Naylor replied with a grin. "No, son, they are all yours!"

JD, nearly 17 years old, grinned into himself as he walked outside, already assessing the rich guests as to their riding potential. They always boasted about how good a rider they all were, and no horse was ever too much for them…but JD usually surmised correctly and matched them to the correct spirited horse to suit them. Sometimes he had to lie about the horse’s character to get them to go aboard a particular horse, but there was always one who complained that the horse was too quiet for them and looked like a child’s pony.

In this particular case a young lady had taken offence to her designated steed and was the only one not mounted. The lady stood away from the beautiful black mare, pouting and slapping her elegant gloves that she held in one hand.

"Catriona ….come on…you're holding us up!" shouted a well-groomed man who JD soon realized was her brother. He and the rest of their party appeared to be used to the lady's antics and rolled their eyes. The ladies who were already mounted tutted at their younger companion.

"Oh, Theodore, darling can’t you get that sister of yours to hurry up? If we don’t get started out soon it will be time for luncheon!"

"Sorry, my dear." Theodore turned and smiled at the dainty blond lady; dressed in the most vivid of green’s that JD had ever seen. He had no idea that you could even get THAT color! Never thought he would see the like of it again, well not until he met Ezra Standish.

"Excuse me Mr. Dunne…."interrupted Ezra, unable to keep his silence. "What exactly do you mean by that critique?"


Ezra rolled his eyes and explained more clearly for JD to understand. "Are you inferring that I wear bright colors that are not agreeable to the eye?"

"Ye….No…..I mean no!"

Buck coughed and spluttered with laughter, and the others grinned at JD’s confusion.

"Ez…you know you like them bright colors." Nathan slapped him on the shoulder of his jacket for emphasis. "Look at that thing yer wearin.’"

"Bright," remarked Buck.

"Very bright," added Chris.

"Hurts yer eyes," Vin grinned

"So bright could make ya go blind," quipped Josiah.

"Hey….but I thought you said…"JD turned to stare at Josiah, but luckily he was cut off by Chris.

He knew which road the Kid was taking with that line of conversation and cut him off, so to speak. "We think your jackets are very eye catching Ezra, is what I think we are all trying to say?"

"Yes, they are all bloody br….." Buck tried to get in the last word

"…..Fine! Now, that we're all finished, let JD get on with his story, or it will be time for supper." Chris glanced at his watch for effect and gave a nod to JD when all the attention had been turned back to him.

Theodore turned to rebuke his sister once again, but this time more harshly, because the pretty Miss Clare Laverne was upset and he just can’t have that.

"Catriona!" he rebuked, getting down from his mount and giving JD the reigns to hold for him. He took a few paces to reach her, where she stood reluctant to mount. "Now, get on that horse!"

Catriona pouted more and dug the heel of her elegant riding boot into the ground in defiance at her brother's words. "Shan’t and you can’t make me!"

"Catriona!" his voice rose and he lashed out a hand to take hold of her arm. "This is your last warning, get on that horse and stop acting like a child!"

"Shan’t!" She turned and stomped off around the corner of the stable block, with her skirts billowing behind her as she moved out of sight.

Theodore rolled his eyes to the heavens and held his hands high above his head and cried softly. "God, why didn’t you give me a younger brother….not this rebellious little hellion?"

JD tried to withhold a grin, but the man noticed the amused look on JD’s face and winked at him as he turned to remount his horse. JD took the reigns of the abandoned horse and turned to watch the four people ride out of sight. He placed Lightning back into her stall he took off the tack. He gave the horse a light grooming before replacing the tack into the tack room once more.

JD took a short break and headed to the upper rooms above the stables where some of the single men had their quarters, hoping to find some coffee to warm him up. Not surprised that he was alone, he helped himself to a couple of cups of coffee before making more for the next thirsty worker to drink.

He went into the corral to check to see if all was well before he headed back into the stables. He checked on the stalls then went into the barn for hay for the hungry horses that would return after being ridden by the visitors.

JD pulled one of the heavy bales down from a large pile and broke it apart, ready to split it into the hay nets. He was concentrating on his work and didn't realize that he was not alone in the barn. He picked up the hay nets and started to carry them back to the stables, but was stopped short by the strangest scene. In a corner, up against some bales of hay he saw two people in a clinch, and he recognized the dress of Catriona the unruly female who didn’t wish to ride Lightning. Was this the real reason he wondered?

As he watched from the shadows, he nearly fainted when the girl opened her eyes to stare directly at him with a smile on her face, clearly showing that she knew he was there watching. The blush that rose to his face burned, but he still couldn’t drop his eyes from her. The male pressing close up against her dress moved, and JD noticed for the first time that he was moving his body faster and faster, and then he nearly choked as light dawned on him about what the man was doing.

JD broke away as quickly as he could. With the filled nets flying behind him, he ran at breakneck speed back into the safety of the stables. He took a bit to get his breath back and get his hammering heart back under control, before he stood to hang up the hay nets in preparation for the horses' return. He was just in time; he heard the hoof beats approaching.

He caught at the horses' reigns, after the riders had dismounted, and led them one by one into their stalls, where he removed all the tack and groomed each horse in turn. Time passed for JD, and he kept busy, so he didn't have time to reflect on the scene in the barn.

He nearly jumped a foot high later that evening when he was bedding down the horses for the night. A soft footfall behind him made him spin around with sudden concern, wondering who was in the stables so late.

His eyes instantly recognized the young lady they called Catriona; the one that gave him so much trouble earlier in the day and then….he gulped in concern wondering what she wanted from him?

Buck broke into a bawdy chuckle "Come on, JD. What ya think she was wantin’?"

He prodded at JD's arm and watched the blush rise onto his face and up around his ears. The Kid's embarrassment sent him off into another fit of laughter. "Maybe she wanted ya ta scratch that itch of hers?"

"Buck!" Chris glared at his friend. "Leave JD be, let him alone!"

"Yeah, let him finish!" chided Josiah.

JD grinned from under lowered eyes and started to talk quietly, still very much red in the face. He knew what the man had been doing to Catriona; well he thought he did, but sure wasn’t going to ask this lot in case he was wrong

Catriona was standing next to him looking unflinchingly into his eyes before she started to speak. "What’s your name, Boy?"

"JD, Miss Catriona." He had been taught to be polite to every visitor.

"Oh, you know my name…"

"Yes Miss, your brother…"

"Ah yes, this afternoon…"

"Yes, Miss."

"Why didn’t you give me away, JD…." She hesitated and looked down at her feet, "…when I was in the barn with Anthony."

"Oh, none of my business Miss Catriona."

"Oh, stop this Miss Catriona malarkey. Just call me Cat, okay JD?" He was surprised at her friendliness. "Want to know why I was with Anthony?" JD was curious, though he didn’t like to say so, but she continued to tell him anyway. She was being smothered by her big brother, and he made her take part in adult activities like riding and going on picnics and such things when she only wished time to herself. He was constantly calling her childish and telling her to grow up - so she decided to act the way he wished for a change, with Anthony. "Knew it wasn’t a lady like thing to do, but Anthony had been annoying me to come into the barn since yesterday, so I finally gave in." Her voice dropped to a low whisper. "Didn’t like his breath on my face; it was horrible! I refused to let him kiss me, but he just pushed me into the hay - then you came in."


"No, I wasn’t sorry. He soon stopped when I said someone was watching us; was glad it was you, JD."

"Did he ….hurt you?" he asked, showing his concern for her.

"No…but …well….I think you stopped him, he ran off just after you did."


"JD, stop saying sorry."

"S….So" he started, but broke into a chuckle and she started to laugh too. "Heck you getting' me all muddled up." JD blushed more and couldn’t help but notice how pretty she was, now that she had stopped acting like a spoilt brat.

"JD, would you like to do what Anthony was doing?" she asked surprising JD so much that he stood with his mouth open. His eyes were fixed on her, staring in shock at this sudden invitation.

"Oh my Lord!" He spluttered, gulped, and tried to get his heart and breathing under control, all while trying to stop blushing and figure out what to say. He had gone all weak in the knees, and he had broken out into a sweat.

"Whooooo Hoooo!" howled Buck, interrupting JD once more. His eyes glistened with delight and his eyebrows twitched as a broad smile creased his face, showing his wide toothed grin. "Hell Kid, think she was offering ya more than just a little kiss!" Buck slapped the kid on his shoulder and winked still beaming fit to burst at the kid in front of him. Buck was beginning to wonder if JD was as innocent as he looked after all.

"Come on Buck, let him alone," roared Chris. He wanted the kid to finish the story because they were all eager to know the final outcome.

"Mr. Wilmington, Mr. Dunne has not completed his narrative, and I for one would be gratified if you would refrain …"

Ezra was using his fancy ten-dollar words again and that made Vin boil over. He shouted at them all. "Shut the fuck up and let JD finish!" Vin was surprised at his own strength of words, but it got the desired result, and JD was able to complete his story uninterrupted

The Kid looked sheepishly about to see his friends waiting for the ending. He hoped he would not disappoint them. He had been surprised at Vin’s swearing, but flashed him a grin of thanks before he cleared his throat to finish what he had started.

"Cat was staring at me waiting for my reply….."

He gulped and shuffled his feet before looking up into her curious eyes. She was still waiting his reply. He didn’t wish to disappoint her but ….he remembered his Ma’s words from that morning, and he was trying not to get into trouble.

"Miss Catriona….," he started.

"JD…Cat, just Cat remember, please?" she implored and touched his arm with her hand again.

"Cat, I am no gentleman, but my Ma didn’t bring me up to…."

"Stuff and nonsense ….you are more of a gentleman than that Anthony and that’s the truth."

"Thanks, but I shouldn’t…."

"JD, don’t you like me?"

"Oh yeah, you're really pretty, but I don’t think I can do what ….what he ….that Anthony…."

"Oh my no, don’t want you to do that JD; just want you to kiss me."

They were both now leaning up against a stall, and he couldn’t help but notice her beautiful red lips, and he wondered what on earth he should do…but she took that sudden thought away from him when she caught his mouth in a kiss.

The kiss sent his pulse racing, and he was pressed back into the stall with her leaning heavily up against him. He couldn’t help but catch her around the waist with both of his hands to hold himself upright against her onslaught. He was unsure how long the kiss lasted, a second or two he guessed, but his mind had left him as it spiraled away to journey he didn’t know where.

"Well, JD, you like that?" she purred into his ear. He gulped again and closed his eyes as he fought to reply and to get his mouth working again.

"Yeah, Cat…" he puffed breathlessly and looked into her eyes before surprising her with a kiss equally as hard as her own had been. When they broke free once again they stared at each other for a moment and then started to laugh.

They both slipped to the straw decked ground, and JD couldn't resist the pull of her lips again. He started to kiss her again, but this time he drew her into a hug. The warmth of the kisses made his head spin, and when her mouth parted and her tongue probed at his own half-opened mouth he gasped and broke free.

"Something wrong, JD?" she asked him, staring in puzzlement

"Uh No, Cat….no." But, he had touched his lips with his hand, and she guessed that it had something to do with that last kiss.

She grinned asked, "Has no lady ever kissed you like that before, JD?"

"N..N..No, …" He stumbled over the word and blushed. "Not quite like that before."

"Well, my dear boy, it is about time you learned how to kiss properly."

"You going to show me?" he grinned.

"Would be my pleasure, JD." He was a very quick learner, much to Cat’s delight.

"and that….was my first proper kiss," JD finished, still with a flush to his face.

"Did she allow you to go any further?" Buck asked, leering at his young friend.

"Whoa!" JD shouted back at Buck with mock irritation and slapped him hard on the shoulder. "Just like you said earlier, that is another story." He smiled and winked at his friend while the other onlookers started to laugh at Buck, who was obviously itching to know more about JD and Cat.

But, JD sat back in his chair confident that if Buck continued with his probing questions much longer, five other men would back him up, if he had to shoot him to put the big ladies man out of his misery.

Part Nine - Conclusion

All Seven had told each other of their first kiss, and they all had discovered something new about the other members of their group

Josiah was the first to move away from the table, and he stretched and yawned as he stood up, flexing his long arms and legs to get rid of the kinks that had settled in when he was listening to the other six men’s stories. "Well, I don’t know about you lot, but my stomach is growling for food, and I am leaving to head for the hotel for a feed. Anyone care to join me?" The ex-preacher grinned at the hungry looks that instantly appeared in his friend's faces at the reminder of their empty stomachs.

"You buying?" asked Ezra and then instantly regretted it when a hard hand slapped him on his shoulder and Chris Larabee’s voice rebounded around the room.

"Sounds like you're offering Ezra, that’s nice of you! Hey boys, supper's on Ezra."

Chairs scraped and loud "Thanks Ezra’s" could be heard as the gambler lowered his head to the table and banged his head. He knew he should have kept his mouth shut, it usually got him into trouble, and this time it will cost him in hard cash.

"You coming Ezra?" JD asked after the others had rushed outside and headed for the Hotel Restaurant at a run.

"Well, as I appear to be paying for the fare, I shall attend to ensure that they don’t eat too much."

After their stomachs had been filled, they retreated to the saloon once Ezra had paid the bill in full, with much shaking of his head and heavy sighs. Chris caught at his arm as he entered the saloon.

"Hold it Ezra, want a quick word….." Ezra groaned, sure that he was in trouble with his leader but was amazed to find that this was not the case. "You could have told us a lie…" Chris nodded his head to indicate the saloon, "earlier, but you came good. Just consider the supper you have just paid for as compensation for the little bad start you got, get my drift?"

"Yes, Mr. Larabee, I certainly do, and if we have future …..reminisces to impart, I will remember to be as truthful as possible."

"Well, as long as you remember that Ezra we will get along fine."

They found their glasses were full and waiting for them at their table. As they sat down Buck was trying to get more information out of JD about Cat.

Chris growled and glared his famous black stare at Buck, who looked away from Chris’s gaze.

"Buck, I told you to leave it…we all agreed that it was the first kiss only, your idea remember."

"Yes, Mr. Wilmington. Do you not recall me asking if you and your Lady met again for a further date?"

"Yeah?" Buck looked baffled at the Gambler's words.

"Do you then remember what your response was?"

"MM.… not exactly."

The others around the table remembered, and at a conspiratorial nod and silent count from Ezra they all shouted in unison to Buck, so he was sure to remember. "That’s another story?"

"Ah hell, did I really say that?" groaned Buck.

"Oh yeah," grinned a delighted JD. "But next time we have a day like this, it is my turn to choose the…." JD was lost for words so Ezra helped him out.

"Topic, JD. The word is topic."

"Yeah, like Ezra just said, I will choose it."

"What are you thinking about son?" asked Josiah, hoping the kid would catch on and tease Buck further.

"Oh, I have a few ideas, like …what was your first horse called…"

No grumbling so far, so JD grinned and added, "or maybe what was your first memory of your Ma…" still no grumbles, " or….maybe your first toy.." JD turned to look at Buck who had turned a bright red for some reason and wasn't saying a word. JD noticed the blush and wondered what was Buck’s first toy, and why was his face so red.

But to coin a phrase…..THAT IS ANOTHER STORY.


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