by Judi Milling
After Jenny had gotten her clothes straight, and the flush on her face had died down, she turned around to face Vin. "I thought you were going to shoot me," Jenny said as she tried to muster up some courage to make her voice sound normal. It wasn't easy after looking into those blue eyes that reminded her of a clear day, when the sky just seemed to go on forever with blue intensity.
Vin kind of smiled a little, and said, "No ma'am. Just saw that snake and figured we didn't have time to have a conversation. I'm sorry I scared you, but had no time except to shoot. I'm just glad you weren't hurt. You sure you're all right?"
Jenny noted from his voice a real concern for her well being and the fact that he could have taken great advantage of the situation. Hell, it wouldn't have been difficult at all for her to give in to desires that seemed to encompass her entire being. No man had made her feel that way before. Jenny assured him she was fine, but probably had a few more grey hairs.
Gathering her wits again, Jenny said, "We haven't met, formally, except for running into you in the saloon, but my name is Jenny, Jenny McNeill. I'll be working in the saloon, uh, as the singer."
Vin eyed her more deeply, more deeply than he cared to and acknowledged, "Vin, ma'am, Vin Tanner." Jenny's eyes widened more and she thought to herself, "oh no, this is the man that's next to my room!"
So as not to look too surprised, Jenny smiled back at Vin, and with a look of determination, "Please. Call me Jenny. Ma'am makes me feel like I should be in a rocking chair."
"Ma'am, I think its best that I call you Miss McNeill," as Vin looked at her. Jenny could feel her anger rising at this man who made her feel so unsettled.
Then Vin took on a sterner look, noting that her big buckskin horse was grazing not to far from them. Damn, she should know better. She was putting herself in danger. The woman had no sense of what kind of trouble she could get into. "What in the world were you thinking of coming out here all by yourself, not knowing the lay of the land, riding that big hard head of a horse, and not caring or paying attention to what kind of dangers you were putting yourself into to?" Vin just let it all out. He even surprised himself at how forceful his words were to this little lady. He couldn't understand himself as to why he was so angry with her. He almost wished he had said it differently, because he could see Jenny's golden brown eyes widen, then darken with anger, intense anger.
"How dare you yell at me. Besides, who do you think you are? I am quite capable of taking care of myself. I handled myself quite well with my new horse. Cody and I have quickly developed an understanding. I know horses." Jenny was so mad at this man who dared to question what she did and how she did it. No one, no one had ever talked to her that way.
Vin's eyes narrowed, the blue turning as dark as storm clouds. Carefully picking his words to get his point through, Vin looked at her, "Yep. You sure can. That's why I shot the snake you were going to step on."
Jenny was livid. She took one step closer to him, close enough to feel his masculinity. Trying not to feel unnerved about his closeness and just to show him he could not intimidate her, she slowly told him, "All right, maybe you can take a point for that, and that I am very grateful for, but otherwise, nothing else went wrong."
Vin snickered and shook his head. "I suppose me coming up on you with not much on, is a point for you? I think I should get the point for that." As his eyes moved up and down her body, his voice took on a more caring tone. "You know, it could have been anyone, anyone who wouldn't care about anything except having his way with you after seeing you with those legs showing and your skin shinning in the sunlight. You would have been hard pressed to talk your way out of a bad situation when a man sees you with hardly nothing on. Sorry it sounds so crude, but it's the only way it might get through to you that you put yourself in real danger."
Jenny was so mad that this man had the gaul to speak to her that way, she just sputtered out, "Well, they didn't, and you showed up, so I guess my reputation is still intact." Then Jenny got closer to Vin, close enough so he could smell her wonderful scent, close enough to touch her, and then she put her finger on his cheek, softly running it down to his chin. Changing her tactics to get the upper hand, Jenny smiled, and talking in a low, husky voice, "Besides, I still could have taken care of myself."
Vin was so exasperated with this woman, but very aware of that hand and the heat that built up in him as she stroked his face. He looked deep into her eyes, and countered back, "And I suppose that you would have seen the snake, and just argued it to death, since I don't see no gun. In fact, with what little clothes you have on, you ain't hidd'ng much of anything."
Before Jenny could spur back a tart reply, Vin turned and went over to Cody. She wouldn't dare let him know that she didn't have a gun because she didn't know how to use one. Jenny just stood there, and then a sly smile came to her lips and she thought to herself. "Go ahead, Mr. Tanner, go over to Cody. You'll deserve all you get." Jenny couldn't wait to see Vin tangle with the big buckskin. Cody sensed the man coming over to him. His head popped up and ears went back. As Vin approached, he spoke softly to the big stallion. Cody then recognized the man. He would show up at the livery, and sometimes bring him a carrot, but never attempt anything else. He would vanish, then ride by on a big black. Cody's ears went forward and he slowly walked over to the man, just in case he might have something for him. Vin put his hands on the buckskin's forehead, stroking, and talking quietly. Jenny's smile left her lips, and with hands on her hips, cursed inwardly, "Damn horse, damn men in general. Can't trust them."
Vin brought Cody over to where the saddle and bridle were and started to put them on. Jenny came over grabbed the bridle, and turned to Vin, "I am quite capable of saddling my own horse." Vin stepped back, tipped his hat and went over to get his own horse. Jenny leaned closer to Cody and whispered, "Thanks a lot Cody. I thought at least YOU would have been more loyal." Cody whinnied slightly, and as Jenny stroked the buckskin's head where Vin had touched him, her mind wandered, wondering how such a man could have such a soft touch to tame such energy. She remembered his hands, how strong yet how wonderfully gentle they had felt on her leg. She wondered how it would feel to share more of herself with him.
Just then, Vin walked up, "Get on your horse, and I'll escort you back to town."
Jenny was jerked from her dream, back to reality, fighting back the anger. "I will go back to town when I am good and ready. And I'm not ready."
Vin leaned closer, slowly, deliberately saying his words, his anger showing clearly. "Get on that damn horse, or I'll put you on mine with me to make sure you get back to town." Jenny just looked at him, first with a murderous look, then a slight devious smile formed on her lips.
With the air of a lady, "Well, Mr. Tanner, as much as I am SURE you would enjoy having my body rub up against yours on your horse, I would prefer to ride my own horse. And besides, I've decided that I want to go back to town anyway. I have a dinner engagement with a very handsome man." Of course, Mr. Tanner didn't know that Jenny was supposed to meet Luke and Sarah. Besides, it wasn't any of his business. But why did she feel she had to say that to this man.
"Well, Miss McNeill, MA'AM, I am sure your reputation would stay intact even on my horse, and that Mr. Standish, if that is your gentleman friend, will be glad that I came along. And besides, you're too skinny to be of any interest to me in any way." With that Vin got on his horse, and turned. Jenny was too angry to say anything else. She got on Cody, and both she and Vin headed back to town. The entire ride was done in silence. And that half an hour seemed like an eternity.
The ride back seemed so much longer than when Jenny had ridden out. The day had shown promise to be beautiful. Hell, it started out beautiful until that pig headed man interrupted her morning. Pete saw the two ride up. But the look on both of their faces, made Pete decide he would not ask how every thing went. He never saw two people so mad than what he had seen ride up on them horses. Vin got down first and went around to where Jenny pulled Cody up. Before she could even attempt to dismount, Vin reached up, grabbed her by the waist and unceremoniously pulled her down. As her feet hit the ground, Vin said in a low, but authoritative voice, "Next time you decide to go riding, have someone go with you. You aren't capable of taking care of yourself."
Before Jenny could spurt anything out, he turned, took both horses reins, and walked into the livery, telling Pete to get a stall ready for the big buckskin to stay in. Then he turned to Jenny, "As soon as Pete finds you a stall, Cody needs rubbing down." All Jenny could do was stomp inside the livery, following Pete. The next half-hour was one of silence, and thank god, Cody's stall was not next to Vin's black's. Now if she could figure out how to change her room in the saloon. She didn't want to even be near that man while she was sleeping. At the same time, Vin muttered to himself about having to have a room next to that hard headed, smart mouthed little snip of a woman. Well, at least she could sing, and damn good too.
Later that evening, Jenny had a wonderful time with Sarah and Pete at the hotel. They had discussed wedding plans, what Jenny did in Europe, her songs, what she and Luke would sing. Jenny had let it slip that she had gone riding. Luke was very stern with her about riding alone. "You sound just like Mr. Tanner." Luke looked at her in a questioning manner and she told him how Mr. Tanner had found out about the horse, and followed her. But she made sure that Luke knew of nothing else that went on. He would have really gotten after her about how Vin had seen her with hardly any clothes on. She was tired, after sparing with Mr. Tanner, and had no desire to listen to it again.
That night, Jenny soaked in her tub, reliving the past morning. Her mind went to when Vin was so concerned about the snake biting her, and when both of them had gone almost to a point of no return. She almost wished he had. Shaking that thought from her mind, and chastising herself for even THINKING it, she got out of the tub. Knowing she had better get ready, Jenny got out of the tub, and began to dress. She wanted to look really special and decided on a deep red silk and beaded dress. The dress was cut so low at the bodice that anything less would have revealed too much. The shoulder straps dangled with beads down on her arms, revealing beautiful soft shoulders. The shiny beads covered the breasts and then deep red shiny silk hugged her slim body. At the waist it flared out somewhat with a slit coming up to past her knees in the front. Her auburn hair was put up, and small curls feel slightly down her neck. Ruby red earrings graced her delicate ears, and a ruby "T" necklace fell down from her neck, falling heavily into the crevice of her bosom.
Jenny scented herself with a light perfume she had brought with her from France. Wicked Passion was the name of the perfume. And that's what she felt like. Maybe Mr. Tanner would be there, and she would show him a thing or two. He may be strong and so sure of himself, but she could take her womanly wiles and make any man melt. "Just you wait Mr. Tanner. I'll make you putty in my hands."
Jenny came down the stairs, casually looking around. Men turned their heads, making all kinds of sounds, but nothing lewd. They were very admiring of her and how she looked. She saw Ezra, who had stood up and was walking towards her. She smiled her biggest smile at him, noting how handsome he was. He had a beautiful red jacket on, silk shirt, and red and black silk vest. A perfect match to her dress. And his charm and gentlemanly manner was so much like what she had seen in Europe. Nothing like that Mr. Tanner. She quickly glanced around, but did not see Vin anywhere. Somewhat disappointed, she descended down the rest of the stairs. She had wanted him to see her, and see his face, when he saw her. Damn him. Mr. Wilmington was there too, mouth open, just starring at her. Ezra had seen her coming down the stairs and could hardly keep himself from rushing over to her. God, she was beautiful and deadly in that outfit. He wouldn't mind having her on his arm for a long time. Not only had he gotten the impression of brains, but she was definitely a beauty in that outfit. And she acted so much like a lady of breeding but not stuck on herself. She was funny and witty -- a joy gracing his dinner the other night. She was a very pleasant addition to the town's small, limited menagerie of available women.
She and Luke sang several songs together, then Jenny sang some by herself. During the second song with Luke and her, Vin came into the saloon. He casually walked over to the bar where Buck was standing, eyes glued on Jenny.
"Buck," Vin said to his friend, "if you don't shut your mouth, you're going to drool all over yourself." A slight smile came over Vin's face, as his friend turned his head towards him.
"Vin, have you seen anything that looked so much like an angel?" Buck thought he had not seen anything lovier. Vin looked at Jenny. Jenny had been looking at Vin, but as soon as those eyes had looked at her, she turned her head, pretending not to notice. Those cool blue eyes raked in her appearance from head to toe. Vin thought to himself that she did look dangerously beautiful and, yep, just like he thought, bewitching. Bet she could turn herself into anything she wanted to.
"Yep, Buck, an angel in disguise." Buck looked at his friend, wondering where he would have picked up that idea. Jenny was a beautiful woman, just right in the right places, and could sing like an angel.
"Vin, you can't tell me that looking at her doesn't give you the wants, or any good feelings." Vin looked at Buck, then saw Ezra looking at her, and he thought to himself that these boys got themselves in for a peck of trouble. That's what she was, big trouble in a small, luscious package. But looking at her, he could feel the same stirrings deep down, that he had felt when he first saw her getting off the stage.
Vin knew he needed to get away from her, but, he couldn't take his eyes off of her. Watching her move, sing, laugh made him want to stay longer, and dare anyone, anyone to touch her. Vin leaned casually at the bar, with eyes riveted to Jenny. Buck looked at Vin, then looked at Ezra, who had been looking at Vin. Buck and Ezra came to the same conclusion, and both smiled, "Whether Vin believes it or not, he's hooked." They had seen Jenny watching Vin as he walked in. Both men knew they probably wouldn't have a chance. That smoldering look each had given each other without the other knowing it, spoke for itself. They were going to enjoy seeing their quiet friend loose his heart to this beautiful lady. And if he didn't, then the man needed new eyes.
Over the months, Jenny became a big hit. Her songs brought tears and laughter. She also teased the men with some of her songs. The men flocked to see her and hear her. They weren't sure what they liked best -- the songs or dresses. Jenny had quite a few dangerously revealing dresses like the red one she had worn the first night. The emerald green gauze dress brought out the red in her hair. The beaded black dress made her look demure but lethal. The gold satin dress made her look like the sun on a summer day. Each dress hugged her figure. Her movements were fluid and graceful. No man was safe around her. They loved her and she loved them all. If they came in the saloon in a bad mood they always left smiling. Her lightheartedness and songs made them feel that way. And each night, Vin would be leaning against the bar, just watching her. Sometimes while singing she would come up to him as she did the others in the saloon, and run her finger down his jaw line. He would tense, she would see it, and smile. Not once though did he give her the satisfaction of seeing him smile. She never let on that it made her so mad. And even though she had been chastised by Luke for riding alone, she still continued to do so, thinking she was getting the better of Mr. Tanner. Little did she realize that Vin would follow a safe distance behind her, just in case.
During those months, Ezra and Jenny became good friends. She felt a certain camaraderie with the handsome young gambler. It so happened one night that two well to do men came into the saloon looking for Jed. Ezra and Jenny had been sitting at one of the tables, playing cards. "Your skill at cards my dear even out weighs your wit and beauty." Erza was loosing to Jenny, but for the first time didn't mind at all.
"Ezra, if I, as a woman was turned by your smooth talking, then, you and I would be married and have 3 kids within no time." Jenny laughed and Ezra had thought that it wouldn't have been too bad, to fall into that scenario. But whether or not Jenny or Vin would ever admit to it, Ezra knew that those two were drawn to each other like a gambler to gold. All their sparing and arguments wouldn't change that knowledge that all the rest of the six thought. Jenny had met all of the rest of them, and all, including Chris, was taken in by her. She was a sheer joy to any man who had any idea what a woman was worth.
Not too long after the two strangers arrived, Jed came over to the table and sat down. "I have a prospective buyer for the saloon." Jed wanted to let the two people he liked the most, that he had had an offer. Although, he had hoped Ezra or Jenny would want to buy, he still had to think of the opportunity of selling the place. Nothing was said, and Jed stood up and walked off.
Ezra and Jenny looked at each other. Ezra spoke first. "This is a fine establishment. Managed in an efficient manner by someone, one could become prosperous in no time, if one had the money to purchase it."
Jenny looked at Ezra and sighed. "Ezra, you know that both of us would like to own this saloon. I don't know your financial status, but, I don't have quite enough to cover it." Ezra studied the auburn haired girl, not sure if his suggestion would suit either one. After a few moments of silence, Ezra got up and sat down in the chair next to Jenny. Grabbing her hand, and Jenny slightly giggling, Ezra, pronounced his undying love, for the saloon and Jenny.
What he next suggested brought a glint to Jenny's eyes and a smile to Ezra's lips. "Would you consider becoming co-partners in the purchase of this establishment." Ezra had thought about it for a few weeks. Having to share the saloon with a woman who was not only beautiful and talented but smart would be a big advantage. Both could run it, and still do what they liked to do best. A perfect union. To his surprise, Jenny put her arms around his neck, and kissed him on the lips. If Vin didn't get his act together soon, he would definitely look into a more permanent relationship.
Leaning back, Jenny, spoke with a husky, almost provocative voice. "Ezra, my love, you and I have a deal."
Jed was beside himself. He had grown to love Jenny, just like a daughter. He had often told her that if he had gotten married, if he hadn't married someone like her, then his daughter would have been like her. He would notice a cloud come over Jenny, but then fade away, and a radiant smile would replace it. Jenny had come to love so many people in Four Corners. Luke had been so busy working two jobs -- one at the mill and playing in the saloon, that he seldom had time to spend with Jenny. Sarah took up all the time he had left. Luke had wanted to buy a small little place just outside of town so he and Sarah could get married and raise some kids. But it costs money, and working two jobs would help him get there. Jenny had already had plans for Luke and Sarah.
The reason she didn't have enough money to buy the saloon was due to the fact hat she bought an adorable place that she and Sarah had seen when they went riding one day. Jenny loved Sarah so much. She would be the best thing for Luke. Luke had given her his undying love as a brother, but had never pried into her past. He let her be herself. The place was their wedding gift. She knew Luke would be angry, but he would get over it. It was killing Jenny not to tell him. It would have to wait a couple more months, when they got hitched. Also in settling with Ezra, certain conditions were established between the two new owners. One that Ezra did not disagree with was giving Luke more money. The saloon was making more money than it ever had, Ezra saying that Jenny was the reason it had become the most popular place in town. Jed finally packed his belongings, wishing them the best, and left Four Corners. Ezra and Jenny were now the proud owners of one saloon.
Night after night, after Jenny retired for the night, she would lie in bed, thinking about the man who was so close but so far. She wondered why she cared about Mr. Tanner and why he was always on her mind. Every time she was near him, her heart beat faster, and she lost some of her self assurance. And if either spoke to each other, it was some kind of barb. Vin on the other hand, would lie in his bed at night, wondering why this little prairie dog, got so much under his skin. He decided that this would be his last week in town, and he would head out for a couple of days. He needed to get out, get out into the open air and land. Maybe this was a good time to go back to Tuscosa to clear his name and get that woman out of his mind.