She cupped the cool water in her hand, running it up her arm. She then took her other hand and did the same thing. Taking both hands, she cupped more water, holding it head level, letting the water slowly cascade down her chest, past her stomach, and into the water

Andrea slowly swirled around, enjoying the feel of the lake against her body heated by the noon day sun. It felt so good to get all that dirt off of her body after riding in the hot sun for days. It was pure luck finding this lake before she would finally get into Four Corners. If her father had known she would be traveling like this, he would be furious. And that's exactly why she hadn't told him her plans.

She was the oldest of the children and the only girl. She had always been slightly on the wild side, not being the demure, delicate woman her parents wanted her to be. And when her brothers came along, well, it was no use to try to get Andrea to act any differently.

She had longed to see her younger brother. He had moved to Four Corners with his family several years ago. But time had gotten away from her and by the time she had made plans, he had been killed. It was strange how life took its turns. She always thought her family would always be there. Now with him gone, she had taken another look at herself. She wasn't going to waste any more time not doing all she wanted to do.

Her father had said it seemed like all he had around him was strong willed women. Her mother and Andrea were that way and so was her sister in law. And this was her reason for coming to Four Corners. She wanted to see her sister in law and maybe see what this little town had to offer. Probably nothing.

Vin had decided to take a ride. He needed to just get away from town life, if not for just a little while. He and the rest of the seven had all agreed to stay in Four Corners for a month to help out, but that month had extended for several months. All of the men seemed to be kinda settling in. Hell, even he was beginning to enjoy knowing he had a place to go every night. And if town living started to get to him, well, he could just up and ride out. And that's what he was doing today. It had been quiet and he could get away for a while without being missed.

Andrea finished washing up. She had pulled a clean white blouse and black pants out of her case she had strapped to the back of her horse, and had put them near some bushes. She thought she had heard something, but decided it was her horse just getting fidgety. No, she heard it again this time, and it wasn't coming from the direction where she had tethered her horse.

Vin had ridden up close to the lake, figuring Peso needed a drink. That's when he spied the clothing laid out on one of the bushes. "Woah, fella. What have we got here?" Vin got down and walked over to the clothes, while he also looked around. "Hello? Anybody around? Hello?" No answer. Picking up the blouse, he realized it belonged to a woman. Holding it in one hand, he called again. "Hello?" Still no answer.

Andrea had seen the man ride up. Here she was stark naked in the water, her clothes and gun not even handy. This was not what she had expected. She had not been too smart by carelessly leaving those items not within reaching distance. Well, she had to take a chance that the man wouldn't see her. She carefully moved slightly down the water's edge where the bushes met with water. Slipping quietly behind them, she moved up to where the man had put blouse back down and had moved on farther, looking for the owner of those clothes. With luck, she could get her clothes on and grab her gun.

Andrea quickly put her blouse on, hoping the man would be gone long enough so she could get her pants on. No luck. "Damn, he's coming back." Andrea crouched down, with only her shirt on and her gun in her hand.

Vin walked back to the bushes noting the blouse was gone. He smiled knowing that the owner of those clothes had come back. Turning his back to the bushes, Vin smiled. "Ma'am. I won't hurt you. Just saw those clothes and when I called, well, since no one answered, thought you might be some kinda trouble."

"Mister, you just better keep your back to me." Andrea came from behind the bushes, holding her gun. Easing behind Vin so he couldn't see her, she stuck the barrel into his back."Now just real easy like, take that rifle and put it down on the ground. I think it's best you just get on your horse and move on mister." There was no way Andrea could hold her gun on this man and put her pants on too. At least her shirt was long enough to cover all but her legs.

Vin could feel the barrel pushing into his back. "Look ma'am, I ain't gonna hurt you and I sure as hell ain't gonna leave my gun." He was nervous because he didn't want to get shot. And as much as that barrel was shaking, he didn't want that thing going off at the wrong time, like in his back.

Andrea only had that gun to make her feel better. God knows she had never had to shoot anyone or even pull the gun before. She knew it would probably come sooner or later, but she had hoped later. So there they were, Vin wasn't leaving without his gun. Andrea wasn't going to put hers down and so she couldn't get dressed.

Vin had finally had enough. He knew she was scared he would do something to her, but, dammit, he wasn't going to. He had to take a chance. About the time he made a swift turn to knock the gun from her hand, Andrea had glanced at the rifle on the ground. Vin turned, catching Andrea off guard. As he grabbed her wrist, they were both caught off balance. Both went down on the ground, Vin landing on top of her. Andrea starting fighting with arms and legs. Vin had grabbed both her wrists with his hands and straddled her body.

"Will you stop!" Vin tried to calm her down but was afraid to let go of her. She was strong and the way she was fighting, he knew she would be able to get in a few good punches. "I'm not going to hurt you."

Andrea was screaming at him. "Let me go. Get off of me!" Now she was getting scared. He was strong and he had her pinned. And in her current state of dress, well, it wouldn't be much for him to have his way with her. In their struggling, Vin knew he was being extremely affected by their contact because he could feel himself rising to the occasion.

Andrea had noticed it too. Fear was her first. Then her heart started beating faster, and she could feel the heat building up in her body. She tried to ignore it. She looked into his eyes. My God they were so blue. She noticed the small lines coming from the corners of his eyes. She noticed his lips. There was just a slight smile, not very much, but it was there. She caught her breath as she looked at this extremely handsome man. They kept staring at each other. Andrea finally stopped moving but her heart felt like was going to jump out of her body and her breathing was heavy. Vin didn't know why, but he wanted to taste those lips. He had to taste those lips. Hell, he didn't even know this woman, and he wanted to kiss her. There was no planning. He just leaned down placing his lips on hers. Andrea didn't fight. She had wanted those lips as soon as she had looked into his eyes. She forgot what the situation was that caused her to be in this predicament.

Both lips met. Her lips were so soft and so inviting. He felt her respond to him and his kisses became more passionate. Andrea moaned with delight. Vin stopped. He abruptly pulled himself up off of Andrea, whispering, "Damn. Ma'am, I, uh, I'm sorry. My God! I don't know why I did that. I'm sorry. I am way out of line."

Andrea was filled with desire. It took her a few seconds to realize what had happened and how her body had wanted this man. Andrea was totally embarrassed. Grabbing the sides of the shirt, she pulled them together trying to hide her nakedness. Vin turned his back, and bent down to pick up his rifle. Andrea got up from the ground, knowing she was flushed from head to toe. She didn't know if her legs would take her to where her other clothes were.

As she tried to dress herself, she saw Vin slide his rifle in the holster, and mount his horse. He crossed his arms across the saddle horn, and leaned forward. Clearing his throat, he called over to her but not looking at her. "Ma'am, I'll make sure that you have yourself all together before I leave. You gonna be all right?"

Andrea mustered her strength to speak. "No need to worry about me. I'll be fine. You can go on." God, she sounded so lame. He tipped his hat still not looking in her direction. She watched Vin ride off. She thought her heart would never settle down. Maybe this was a mistake to travel so much by her self. And what was it about this man that made her forget her self like that. Well as soon as she got into town, she would feel a whole lot better.

As Vin rode off, he couldn't believe what had just happened. Why he had almost had his way with this woman. He couldn't believe he would behave like that. He didn't even know this woman and he had gone way beyond where he should have. Hell, where they both should have. After all she wasn't that type of woman, or was she. He had never seen her before, and traveling along like she was and being naked, she couldn't be a lady. But he couldn't quite put his finger on it. There was something about her.


Andrea rode slowly into Four Corners. As she rode, she noted the stores and buildings. This town didn't look too bad. And there it was. Mary said she couldn't miss the newspaper office. She admired her sister in law for sticking by the place after Stephen was killed. The lady had spunk.

She remembered when her father, the Honorable Judge Travis had tried to get Mary to move back home. She had refused to give up all they worked for. Andrea was glad that the Judge had finally resigned himself to the fact that Mary was going to stay in Four Corners. But he didn't have to like it. Andrea loved her father and mother so much. And the Judge was a good man and a respected man. He had known the town had had problems, but after he met and hired those seven men he talked so much about, he seemed to be more at ease about Mary and his grandson living there.

Damn. It took seven men to protect a town. It sure must have been something of a wild place. Well, it didn't look it now. Maybe they cleaned it all up and left. Too bad. She was very interested in these men her father had talked about. Although she knew the Judge wouldn't like knowing she was interested. Hell, she was already in her late thirties, never married, a condemned spinster. Well that didn't bother her one bit. Getting married just so a woman had someone to take care of her was ridiculous. She was quite capable of taking care of herself.

Andrea rode up to the hitching post in front of the newspaper office. As she tied her horse, Mary came out of the door. "Andrea? Andrea! I thought you were coming by stage. I can see you haven't changed a bit. Does the Judge know you were traveling this way?" Mary noticed the look on Andrea's face and she knew her answer.

"Mary, don't you say a word when father comes into town. He'll be madder than an old rooster." Mary and Andrea hugged.

Mary was so glad to see her. "Andrea, one thing I have missed so much since I have lived here is you. Let's get you settled in the hotel. I made your reservations, like you asked."

Andrea was also glad to finally see a friendly face after spending so many days on the lonely trail. "Thanks Mary. I sure could use a hot meal and a soft bed. I am tired."

Mary seemed a little concerned. "You look like you might have had a rougher trip than what you planned. Your eyes look tired."

Andrea thought back to earlier when that handsome blue eyed man and her had had a tussle on the ground, the feel of his body, and the warmth of his lips. "Yeah, some unexpected things came up." She shook off his image, chastising herself for being weak, thinking about that man. Although, from what she had heard from several of her worldly friends, that a tussle with blue eyes wouldn't have been too bad. In fact, it started out kinda. Andrea's legs started to feel weak again, thinking about that feeling. Clearing her voice, Andrea tried to sound normal. "Mary I am looking forward to seeing what this town has to offer. Maybe there might be something here for me to want me to stay. Oh Mary, do me a favor. Don't mention to anyone who I am. People start acting real funny like as soon as they find out I'm the Judge's daughter."

Mary laughed. "I haven't mentioned to anyone about your coming, and I'll keep your little secret." With that, Mary and Andrea walked arm in arm towards the hotel.

"So how long do I have to come up with a plausible story before the Judge gets into town?" Andrea knew she had to have her story down pat before her father got there.

Mary laughed at her question. "Oh, he should be here in a few days, no later than Saturday."

Andrea sighed. "Saturday, huh?" But she wasn't really listening to Mary. She kept thinking again about how her body reacted and those wonderful lips. "Saturday will be good."

Mary looked at her funny like. "You all right?"

Andrea sighed. "Oh, yeah, fine, just tired."


Mary and Andrea had a nice quiet dinner. They talked about Stephen, the town, they laughed about things. Andrea wanted to ask Mary about the men her father had talked about but didn't want to look too interested. Mary had talked a little about them, especially one man in particular. It was time Mary moved on. Stephen was dead and Mary was a young and beautiful woman. Andrea was glad Mary had started to look toward the future.

After they finished, Andrea went to her room. At first she felt tired. But as she stood looking out the window, she felt a need to get out and roam around. She had a bad habit of doing that. Couldn't stay inside much. Before dinner she had reluctantly taken another bath. She almost hated to wash the scent of that handsome man off of her. She scented herself with perfume, and changed to a beautiful forest green dress trimmed in dark green lace. The bodice was low and extremely revealing. Otherwise the dress was very simple but elegant and very sexy. Andrea had decided to let her thick mane of auburn hair hang loose. It always made her feel a little on the wild side.

Andrea figured she better check the town out before her father got there. He wouldn't approve of a lady out at night, especially where she was headed. "Sometimes, father, a woman has to do what a woman has to do," Andrea said out loud to herself. "And that is getting myself a drink and possibly finding a card game."

Andrea headed out of the hotel, down the street. Earlier, she had noted the saloon, and tonight, as she came up to it, it sounded pretty lively. Maybe a game or two at the card table would be interesting too. Taking a deep breath, straightening her dress, Andrea walked through the doors.

Buck was the first to spot her, and only took several steps to get to her. "Ma'am, you are certainly a pleasure to look at. New in town?"

Andrea looked at this very tall man. He overpowered her at her height of 5'3" and he was extremely handsome. She smiled. She had his number as soon as he had spoken to her. He was a very smooth talker and a very handsome ladies man, to be sure. "Yes, I am new in town. My name is Andrea." Buck took her hand and kissed her fingers. It was all Andrea could do not to laugh. "I am interested in a card game. Can you direct me to a good table?"

Buck put on his biggest smile. "Yes ma'am. A friend of mine is at one now and you won't be cheated. He's a good gambler and an honest one." Buck placed his arm in his and led her to the table where Ezra sat with Chris and Nathan.

Pleased to have cornered this little filly first, Buck stopped at the gaming table. "Gentlemen, this is Andrea. She's looking for a game to play."

All the men rose as Andrea waved her hands for them to sit down. Ezra spoke first. "Miss, you are a genuine pleasure to grace this table and saloon." With that, hands were dealt along with a beer for Andrea.

As she looked at her cards, she laughed to herself. "Father would be having a heart attack right now if he saw me." Buck had grabbed a chair, declining to play, but sat next to this beautiful woman.

Vin had decided to go to the saloon and get a couple of drinks. He couldn't get that woman out of his mind. Walking in to the saloon, he headed straight for the bar. Buck had seen Vin come in, and excusing himself, got up and went to the bar where Vin was standing. "Vin, about time you got here. Take a look over at Ezra's table. Ever seen anything as lovely as that?"

Vin glanced over. He looked once, squinted his eyes a little, and looked again. Smiling, Vin looked at Buck. "Yep." That's all he said. But to himself, Vin thought he had seen something lovelier, like earlier today.

Andrea could feel the hair up on her neck. She felt like someone was burning a hole in her back with their eyes. "Can't even shake my father when he's not here," Andrea had thought to herself.

Andrea had finished several hands, winning all but one, and decided it was time to go back to her hotel. "Thank you gentlemen, for the pleasure of your company, the cards, and your money." As Andrea got up to turn around, some of the change spilled onto the floor. Bending down to pick it up, two feet came within her site.

"Ma'am let me help you." Vin bent down to help her. That voice was devastating to her. Andrea then dropped all the rest of the money.

Andrea cleared her throat. "I, ah, I have it. I really don't need any help. Thank you." As she looked up, she saw those beautiful blue eyes, and those lips had a wide grin across them.

"Don't mind helping ma'am." Vin thought that she had been heading into town. But he hadn't seen her at all after that. What a surprise to find her in here, and she sure looked beautiful.

As Andrea and Vin stood up, she tried not to look at him in his face. She could feel herself getting flushed. With a slight thank you, she slipped past Vin and left. Buck had offered to escort her to where ever but she had declined.

Vin watched her walk out, noting how her dark reddish hair shinned in the lamp light, and how tiny she looked. Course, he remembered how tiny she was without those clothes. "Know her Vin?" Came out of Chris's mouth.

Vin turned to his friends, all eyes on him. "Met earlier today, on the road." Ezra pointed to the chair as a courtesy for Vin to sit and gamble. He sat and began to play, but his mind kept going back to that tough little woman.

As Andrea walked back to her room, she kept shaking her head. "I can't believed I blushed when he said something to me." Then she smiled to herself. "This may prove to be a very interesting town after all."


Several days passed. Mary and Andrea had eaten several meals together, Mary anxious to hear all the news, and how Andrea was doing. "Andrea, how is Clayton."

Andrea sighed. "Oh he's fine Mary. You know, same old thing. I don't know Mary. There's something missing, you know, something special like you and Stephen had. Stephen admired your courage, your intelligence, your spirit. With Clayton, well, he seems to want to hold me down with his thumb. Of course, the Judge likes him. He would. Anything to keep his daughter from running wild or ending up a lonely old woman like I'm not there already!"

Mary smiled. "Has Clayton asked you to marry him?"

Andrea frowned. "Yes, many times. I just keep putting him off. I don't know Mary. I just don't want to be tied down. And with Clayton, it would be tied down."

Mary knew Andrea needed someone, and not Clayton, to let her be herself. A free spirit. Hard to do these days. It wasn't proper for a lady to be that way. And it would be a shame for someone to snuff out that spirit in Andrea. "Andrea, have you considered settling somewhere else? Find something you would really like to do. I can offer you a job here for a while, if you want to try it out."

Andrea smiled at her sister in law. That offer didn't sound too bad either, considering she might meet up again with that handsome man she had met earlier. She wanted to talk to Mary about him, but Andrea was the type of person who normally kept things to herself. Maybe later she would feel more comfortable talking to Mary about this man who made her body fill with fire.

Mary then remembered the telegraph office. "Andrea, I know you worked for years as a telegraph operator. Are you still interested in that line of work?"

Andrea had enjoyed that work. And at least she could come and go as she pleased. Found out a lot about people that way. A frown appeared on her face. That's how she had met Clayton. Although, she couldn't complain. He was attentive. He was sweet. Andrea had kept him at bay for years. He had been quite forward on many occasions, ardent kisses, roving hands. After all, he was a man with needs, but wasn't she? There was just something missing. There was no passion, no heat in his kisses. Now take that handsome man's kisses earlier this week at the lake. God, the passion alone in those lips would set any heart afire.

"Andrea? Andrea?" Mary's voice brought Andrea back to reality. "Where were you? It must have been something nice with the way that smile covered your face."

"Oh, I'm sorry Mary. Now what were you saying? Oh, yes, the telegraph office. Yes, I do enjoy that type of work, why?"

"Well," Mary continued, "We haven't had an operator here for a while, and the town sure could use one, if your interested."

"I don't know Mary. I'm not sure what I want to do. You think at my age I'd know by now, but give me a few days, let me check it out, and I'll let you know."

Mary seemed satisfied. She had sparked an interest in Andrea. And having her here would make living here even better. Andrea was like a sister to her.

It was time for the weather to turn cooler. One late afternoon, Andrea decided to go riding. The Judge would probably be here tomorrow and she wanted that one last day to really get out and be herself. She hadn't noticed the storm clouds building. And it would be one hell of a storm too. Several hours out, Andrea finally noticed how dark it was getting, and decided she had better turn back towards town. Too late. The storm decided to reek its fury just then. Thunder first, then lightning, then down currents of rain. It dumped so fast and hard, Andrea could hardly see in front of her. Deciding to look for some kind of shelter, she urged her horse on.

Andrea was petrified of storms. She felt her fear rising each time the thunder crashed and the sky light up. She was soaked clean through her clothes, and getting chilled. The temperature had dropped considerably, and if she didn't find shelter soon, she would be cold to the bones. Just vaguely, she picked out a shadow coming through the trees. A rider on horseback.

Vin had been out all day and had expected to not return to town until late that night. But the storm had caught up with him. Not wanting to travel through it, he knew he could hole up in an old abandoned shack, until it let up. That's when he saw the outline of a rider approaching him. Well they could share the house until the storm was over. Riding up to the rider, Vin finally realized who it was.

Andrea looked harder. "Oh no, not him." She felt flushed all over. "God, I feel like a school girl. Kinda old for that, Andrea, don't ya think?" Andrea kept muttering to herself about her luck in seeing him again. She hadn't seen him since the night at the saloon, where she had acted like a silly school girl, and she knew he knew it.

Yelling through the noise, Vin had grabbed Andrea's reins. "Look, I know a place we can wait this out. We can't ride in this storm. Come on." Andrea's fear of the storm left her no doubt that she preferred being inside out of the storm. Following Vin, they finally came up to the old abandoned shack. Sending her inside, Vin put the horses up in the other shed, and brought in what he had brought with him.

It was dark, dusty, and scary as hell when the lightning streaked across the sky to light up the inside of the shack. Vin came in and Andrea was still standing there, shivering from fear and the cold. Vin found some wood left inside from the last occupant, and got a warm fire going. Going back to Andrea, he noted the fear in her eyes.

"Listen, we'll be all right. You look cold. We have got to get these clothes off to dry." Vin didn't think he was getting through to Andrea. "Ma'am, you gotta get them clothes off before you catch your death from cold."

Andrea tried to unbutton her blouse but her finger just wouldn't work, whether it was from cold or fear, she didn't know. Vin had brought in blankets off of both horses and laying them across the table preceded to help her unbutton her blouse.

Andrea let him. She wasn't accomplishing anything with her doing it, and his eyes from the fire's glow gave her a feeling of peace. Vin got her blouse unbuttoned and off. Her riding skirt came off next. My God, she was freezing. Her skin was like ice. Her wet undergarments clung to her like a second skin and he knew she needed to get them off, but not sure if he should be doing it.

"Ma'am, can you get the rest off yourself? I need to get my wet clothes off too." Of course Vin considered it not too bad of a job to do if she couldn't.

Andrea finally realized Vin had been talking to her. "What? Oh, yes, I think I can." As Vin turned and started taking his clothes off, Andrea was able to get hers off and wrap herself in one of the blankets. She had watched Vin take his coat and shirt off, noting the strong, sinewy muscles rippling in the firelight. He had broad strong shoulders that tapered down to a narrow waist. She turned as he undid his pants to slide them off, although, she really felt the urge to watch this man totally undress to see what the rest of him was like. As she walked over to the fire, Vin got the other blanket wrapped around him. Walking over to the fire, Vin handed her something.

"Here, drink this. It's whiskey, but it'll help you warm up some." Vin stretched him arm out with the flask in hand. As Andrea went to take it, their fingers touched, sending sensations through Andrea that felt she had been hit by the lightning from the storm raging outside.

"Thank you...... mister. I don't even know your name." Andrea tried to sound calm.

"Vin Tanner, ma'am." Vin had felt kinda funny too when their fingers met.

"My name is Andrea. I seem to have a tendency of being wet when we meet." With that Andrea laughed slightly, and Vin smiled. Andrea thought that this man was dangerously handsome when he smiled.

They both sat down close to the fire, both taking sips of the whiskey. As the whiskey went down Andrea's throat, she felt the warmth building up in her. Vin needed it to keep his mind off of this beautiful woman. As the storm raged, one extremely large thunderbolt exploded, scaring Andrea so badly. She unexpectedly moved closer to Vin, making him a little unnerved.

"I'm sorry. I'm not real good at storms. Got caught in one when I was little. It was hours before my father found me, soaking wet, crying and screaming to make it go away. Even when he grabbed me into his arms, I kept screaming I was so scared. Never got over it. Still scared of storms." Andrea's eyes filled with tears and as one drop ran down her face, Vin leaned over and wiped it off with his finger.

"Just a little storm. We're safe here." Between the whiskey, the warmth of the fire, and being alone in the shack with a beautiful woman, Vin could feel the warmth building in his veins. His hand stayed on her face. He didn't know what it was about this woman, that affected him this way. Her golden brown eyes held what he thought was fear and longing.

Andrea knew that she was on a new path, a point of no return. His hand on her face, the depth of those blue eyes gave her a longing, a deep fire burning inside her, consuming her entire body. She knew the whiskey had a lot to do with it too, but she didn't care. Their lips came towards each other, finally lightly touching, testing.

Both seemed to possess a passion. A passion needing and wanting to be released, like a prisoner from a cell. Their kisses became more demanding, lips parting. Neither of them noticed the storm raging outside. Later, both lay there, neither saying a word. Neither one knew what to say anyway. Vin lay on his back, as Andrea curled next to him, head on his chest, and hand on his stomach. The storm continued to rage outside, but neither noticed. And that's how they went to sleep.