Cough, Please

by Squeakypeep

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers Part 1/7 - I was intrigued by the 'brothers of the heart' idea.

Disclaimer: Not Mine blah blah..No profit..blah blah….You've heard it all before and others are more eloquent than I.

Rating: Language a bit harsh in places. Slushy, romantic, suggestive.

Acknowlegements: Mog's Universe, apologies to anyone whose toes I've stamped on - I've read so many fics I can't recall who belongs to whom. Angel belongs to me and this is my first fic - go easy. I'm Irish so Texas speak was a challenge and I have a UK spellchecker - you have been warned. I still have to have the American jokes in these fics explained to me!

Warning: OFC If you don't like the boys getting hitched this Series is not for you. Think M7 meets Mills and Boon!

Comments: - be nice.

Vin's Story

July, Saturday 2.57am

He came awake suddenly, disoriented but with all his senses alert. Even in the unfamiliar apartment he knew something wasn't right.

Chris reached up and removed his weapon from the holster where he'd hung it over the bedstead before things had become too heated with Mary the previous evening. Listening intently he placed a hand over Mary's mouth and hushed the now wide-eyed and sleep-tousled blonde. Slipping naked from between the sheets he crept stealthily toward the bedroom door, grateful that his training meant that even exhausted and sated he was capable of maintaining vigilance.

Pausing behind the door, his toes curling in the deep softness of the carpet pile, he glanced over his shoulder, signalling to his lover to remain still and quiet. At her nod he carefully stepped around the door and vanished.

Mary Travis lay completely immobile, eyes glued to the space which Chris had vacated a moment before. Silence. She finally had to remind herself to breathe. But whilst her body was still her mind was racing. Please God, please God. I've finally got him exactly where he should be, please don't take him away from me. Please God, Please God.

Interrupting her litany she focussed on the bathrobe slung carelessly over a chair and determined that in this case Chris Larabee's command be damned, she would give him a hand. Pulling on the robe she moved silently to the doorway.

Ear cocked listening for any sign, good or bad, she let her mind go back to the previous evening.

8.30pm Friday

Everything had to be perfect. Mary had planned this seduction in every detail during her quiet evenings over the last three years. Well, perhaps not three years. For the first two years she had silently berated the bad tempered, hard-assed ATF Agent for getting in the way of her job as a reporter. Images of the green-eyed glare and the echo of a curt 'no comment' had begun to haunt her sleep.

It was when the images had started to get more disturbing and intimate that she knew she was in trouble.

She had carefully arranged for her eight-year old son Billy to spend the Weekend with his grandparents, she'd even got her mother-in-law to suggest it. She'd taken the afternoon off work and prepared a simple starter and main course and then spent the rest of the time preparing 'dessert'.

Sitting on the edge of the bath she painted her toenails a dusky pink and then stretched out her legs and admired the effect. Catching sight of herself in the full length mirror she was surprised by the flush on her skin and the gleam of anticipation in her eyes.

Mentally shaking herself she giggled. Oh, God, she was losing her mind. She was 34 years old, a widow and mother and surely above GIGGLING. She felt like she was going to her senior prom. In fact that hadn't felt so good. She had butterflies in her stomach and a ridiculous smile on her face. She spent the better part of three hours trying on outfits before settling on a simple white silk chemise-style top and a figure-hugging black skirt which skimmed her knees. Slipping into heeled sling-backed shoes she made her way to the kitchen.

When the doorbell sounded she moved to the mirror where she patted down the blonde curls and adjusted her décolletage, it wouldn't do to look too keen, or, she smiled ruefully, too desperate. Smoothing her hands over her hips she opened the door.

Black-clad as usual, Chris was standing in the outer hallway of the apartment complex looking uncomfortably at a large bouquet of lilies. Tucked under his other arm was a bottle, presumably wine, and dangling from his free hand was a six-pack. His hair was probably tidier than she'd ever seen it and he was sporting a large silver buckle on the belt threaded into the tight black jeans.

'Chris.' Mary smiled at him and he sheepishly handed her the flowers.

'Good evening Mary, hope I'm not too early'

', not at all. Please, come in.' She was stuttering. Get it together Mary. Standing aside she allowed entrance to her guest.

'Thank you for the flowers, you really shouldn't have.' There was a pause while they looked anywhere but at each other.

'Dinner is nearly ready, perhaps you'd like a drink…'

'Beer would be great, thanks Mary.' Moving towards what he assumed was the kitchen he placed the wine and beer down on the counter and broke off a can, opening it and taking a sip before setting it beside the others and turning around to meet her eyes.

What Mary saw there caused her mouth to drop open. Not someone who was usually rendered speechless, Mary Travis, woman of eloquence and prose, gaped.

Raw desire. Oh, it was tempered with a bit of insecurity, but there it was. This man, who she had spent the better part of 12 months dreaming about and for whom she had planned a slow and subtle seduction wanted her as much, if not more, than she wanted him. It was too much. The silence stretched. And stretched.

'Mary, would you…'

'Chris, if you want to…'

Finding their voices they spoke simultaneously. Breaking off, they stared hungrily at each other again.

The quiet was broken in this instance by the 'ping' of the timer on the oven and the clicking as it turned itself off.

'It can wait a while if you'd rather sit and talk or something?'

She saw the glint in the green eyes and the hint of a smile as he stepped forward and reached out for her.

'Or something.'

Saturday, 3am

Mary nearly sighed, stopping herself as she remembered she was supposed to be quiet. They never had got around to having dinner. Oh well, he'd just have to come over another time. She caught herself grinning and mentally slapped herself. This was not the time. She returned to the task in hand, eavesdropping.

Chris trod silently down the hallway, giving Billy's darkened room a quick glance as he passed. The noise seemed to be coming from the kitchen and the light was on. The intruder was obviously hungry. Hell it was probably Vin. Scowling at the thought that his number two would be in Mary's apartment at any time, let alone at three in the morning, he scanned the living room and moved quickly towards the source of the noise. Careful to stay out of the light spilling through the opening he put his back against the wall and took a breath. Getting a firm grip on his weapon with both hands he leapt into the doorway.

'Freeze ATF'

Whatever he'd been expecting, this was definitely not it.

Frozen in the open doorway of the refrigerator with a half eaten peanut butter sandwich in one hand and a diet soda in the other was a beautiful girl dressed in knee-torn denim jeans, which may once have been blue but which had been washed almost white, a denim jacket, which looked almost as ancient, a white T-shirt and a pair of badly scuffed brown cowboy boots. Her long blonde hair was tied roughly in a pony-tail high on the back of her head and she was looking at him with very amused dark green eyes. Chris took all of this in at the same moment that he realized that he was wearing nothing but a scowl and a gun.

'YOU, have got to be the 'Chris-who-can-do-anything' I've been hearing so much about.' Her voice was deep and husky and she was trying unsuccessfully not to laugh. 'Billy didn't tell me you were so…so…' She looked him up and down and if possible her grin got bigger, 'so well put together!'

Chris tried to maintain his dignity and give her his famous Larabee glare but from the way she snorted and then doubled over laughing he guessed it didn't carry the same weight when he was bare to the breeze. He felt himself flush. Dammit, Chris Larabee NEVER blushed.

'Who the hell are you?' He yelled trying to get control of the situation, after all HE had the gun.

'I'm Angel. And you can put your weapons away Mr Larabee, both of them.' The girl seemed to think her comment was hilarious as she sank down on the kitchen chair and wiped the tears from her eyes with the back of the hand still clutching the sandwich.

From her position halfway to the living area, Mary recognised the laughter. Turning around she went back and collected Chris's boxers and made her way back to the light.

'It's OK Chris, I know her. Put these on.' She handed him the shorts and he glanced at her for confirmation before lowering the gun and turning his back on the intruder to dress.

'Angel, what are you doing in my kitchen at the three in the morning? For that matter what are you doing in Denver?' Mary glared at the younger woman, tightening the belt on her robe and trying not to look like a teenager caught making out by her parents.

Angel grinned again watching Chris donning his clothes and not even sparing Mary a glance.

'Why, I'm admiring the scenery, Mrs Travis. You never said Denver had such perfect full moons.'

Mary knew her angry façade was slipping and fought against the laugh she could feel at the corner of her mouth. Chris caught her.

'Mary…' His tone was warning 'would you care to explain this young person to me?'

She settled for an introduction.

'Chris, this is my baby sister, Angelina MacCoole. Angel, I know Billy's told you about Chris, he's also with the ATF. And you STILL haven't told me what you are doing here.'

'Also?' This from Chris.

'Angel is the Agency MD in New York. And yes I know she's young - she graduated three years early at Harvard Med.'

'I'm the family geek.' Angel put in. 'Pleased to meet you Agent Larabee.'

'Angel, don't make me ask you again.'

'OK, OK, don't get so intense Mare. I wanted to surprise you.' A pause 'I guess I succeeded. What a welcome!' Finally finished with her perusal of Chris's chest she met Mary's gaze. At her sister's dark look Angel attempted to control her mirth and elaborate.

'Ok, I'll fit in with the theme of the moment and bare all.' Another grin, which was met this time with twin scowls.

'You're my only family, Mare, so I applied a couple of months ago to the Denver office so I could spend more time with you and Billy. I start on Monday. I'll be doing some fieldwork when required but mostly I'm in charge of the Agent Physicals. As an aside to which, Agent Larabee, from what I've seen…which is pretty much everything, you'd have to be a pass.' Laughing at her own humor she took another bite of her forgotten sandwich.

'Behave yourself Angel. Does Orrin know?'

'He didn't initially but does now. Our connection is loose at best and need not necessarily be a problem. Besides he has no say in the Medical assignments, it's handled through the Central Office in DC with local rubber stamping.'

'I was gonna crash on your couch, my place is ready tomorrow but I can see you are otherwise occupied. Thanks for the food. I'll call you in the morning, late I promise, and fill you in on the details.' This delivered en-route to the front door. 'Sorry to break up your evening guys, Ciao.' The door swung shut and she was gone.

'Oh my God. The boys are gonna be climbing over each other to get to the medical wing. A woman who looks like that has no business doing medicals on hundreds of unsuspecting males. She looks even younger than JD. How old is she anyway?'

A woman who looks… Mary studied Chris for a moment but there was no predatory interest in his eyes.

'24 and yes I can see your point. She can handle herself though, and them. She's looked like that since she was a kid and has lots of practice. I can't wait to see what your team make of her. Don't you think she'd be perfect for JD?' This last with a teasing smile as she took his arm and led him back to the sleeping area.

Chris looked horrified and Mary laughed. Billy would be thrilled. It would be good to have her sister around. She hoped.

Mid-August Tuesday

The bust had been a fiasco. Chris pushed his hand through his hair and cursed again at the higher-ups who'd put his team in danger.

Chris, Josiah, Nathan and JD had been providing back up support for Team 10 who were handling an illegal moonshine business which had sprung up in a local high school. Impurities introduced in the distillation had already cost the lives of two students and possibly the eyesight of another three.

Neither group had been happy about working with the other, but with Ezra, Buck and Vin all on light duties after suffering injuries in the Barenti gunrunning Case the previous month and with only two teams available, AD Travis had been unable to justify using 7 as lead when 10 were at full strength.

Team 10 were a new team headed by Agent Stockton, a diminutive redhead with an 'anything-you-can-do' chip on her shoulder, at least according to Buck. JD thought this was more to do with the fact that she'd 'set him on his ass' than with her actual abilities and said so.

'I dunno JD' said Vin frowning up from behind his computer. He'd not trusted the woman on sight. 'They could be cowboys, watch your backs.'

'Jenkins from 5 thinks she may be keen to prove she and her team are as good as, if not better than, everyone else. Her enthusiam might get someone killed.'

'Let's hope not Brother Dunne.'

'Ok boys' said Chris as he came out of his office, 'we are just support. You move on Agent Stockton's word and sweep up any stragglers. Let's roll.'

Four hours later JD was in hospital with concussion and Nathan was at Josiah's babysitting a slightly scorched profiler with no eyebrows. Chris and Nathan were the only members of the top team still active.

Chris looked up as AD Travis entered his office. Shutting the door he asked without preamble 'What the Hell happened Chris? Lattimer's dead and the rest of Team 10, with exception of Stockton, are hospitalized. I've spoken with her and she told me the still exploded without warning, that it must have been rigged somehow.'

'No Sir, Stockton fucked-up.'

'Spell it out'

'It will all be on the tapes Sir.'

'There were no tapes Chris. This was supposed to be a walk in the park, a gentle team-building exercise for team 10 and with you and the boys to hold their hands if necessary. So tell me again.'

'There was no official surveillance but you will find that JD has tapes. He was trying out some new long distance monitoring equipment. Ez and Buck were controlling it from the van which was parked here in the basement. The audio should be fine, the visual comes from lapel pins worn by JD and Josiah so I have no idea what the quality will be like.'

'You're Kidding.'


'So tell me what I'm going to see. Humor me.'

Chris sighed again and leaned back in his chair. He hated to damage the career of another Agent, no matter how Gung-ho. 'Off the record Orrin?' Receiving a nod he continued.

'Everything was fine. 10 moved in on Stockton's command with Nathan Josiah, JD and I following. Stockton was to the North of the basement directing the team from the rear so that she could keep everyone in view and move them systematically. There was a bit of a scuffle but no shots were fired initially. They caught a couple of bootleggers who were disarmed and passed on to us to be held by the DPD and then they moved towards where the distillery itself was set up. It was pretty textbook until then Sir.'

'That's when it all went wrong. Once the rest of the gang had been cuffed, she called out the all-clear which seemed to consist of 'Yeehaw we did it boys!' punctuated with celebratory shots in the air from her hand-gun. One of the rounds bounced, caused a spark and, well the rest is history.'

'The better part of that school certainly is. God how could she be so stupid?'

'Over exuberance, we've all been there.'

'Damn Chris, she fired unnecessary shots with a flammable hazard in the area. That's just dumb.'

'Yes Sir.'

'Let me have those tapes ASAP. You and your team are off the rest of the week, once you've filed reports. Take some downtime and get the boys healthy. You'll get a new assignment on Monday.' With that the senior agent left.

Vin Tanner appeared in the doorway. 'Hell cowboy ya look like shit. Wanna share?' Seating himself across from his friend he stretched his legs out and rested his feet on the corner of Chris's desk.

'If ya didn't need to keep that leg elevated I'd bust your ass for insubordination Tanner'

'Yeah, yeah. So spill it.'

Chris wiped his hand over his face and put his feet up, mirroring Tanner. 'I'm getting too old for this crap Vin.'

'Hell Cowboy if it comes to the good guys blowin' themselves up, I'm gittin' too old for it.'

'You know'

'Ez called Nathan to check on Josiah.'

'Stockton tried to say the still self detonated. She wasn't to know JD was recording.' They exchanged a look.

Shit. She's history.


Could'a happened to anyone.

Not us.


With that silent communication Vin dropped his feet to the floor and stood. 'We goin' to the ranch tonight?'

'Yeah. Travis gave us the rest of the week off, we can spend some time with the horses if you want. Boys will be out tomorrow.'




'I'll check on the boys and file my report. Catch up with you later.'


Vin made his way through the bullpen picking up his jacket and keys and turning off his console. He was pleased with the new relationship Chris and Mary had developed and happy to see his friend so content. Billy had been spending increasing amounts of time, particularly on weekends with his Aunt. All the team had quizzed Chris on Mary's sister, particularly when he seemed so uncomfortable with the subject, almost embarrassed in fact, but he would only say she was young and that she was the new Agency MD. They'd heard on the grapevine that she was pretty hot, some agents coming back from their medicals full of enthusiasm for a date but as yet no-one had managed to get one. There was a book running, controlled by Ezra of course, on who would prove to be the successful candidate. Buck and JD both reckoned their team would win since they had an added advantage with Chris dating her sister but as yet none of them had even seen her.

Shaking his head as he climbed onto the Harley he headed to the ranch.

Wednesday 5am

'Ready to ride Peso?' Vin chatted to the horse as he saddled him. He'd prepared a flask and was headed out to watch the sunrise from his favourite spot.

It was still dark at 5.30 when he settled himself, slightly back from the ledge against a twisted pine, and opened his coffee. It would be another 20 minutes before the sky changed and he shuffled slightly getting comfortable for the wait.

Angel had calculated it would take about 20 minutes from her cabin to 'Sunrise Rock' as she'd christened it when she saw it three weeks earlier. This was the first opportunity she'd had to come up and see if the show was as good as she anticipated. Securing her horse she walked forward and stood, right at the edge of the cliff, pleased with the view of the pink-tinged horizon. Setting down her blanket and flask she sat cross-legged and poured a cup of tea.

Vin stayed perfectly immobile, not wanting to disturb the stillness of the view, hell, both of them. She was slim with a scrubbed face and a long blonde braid hanging down her back. From where he was sitting, behind and to the right, he could see her chest rise and fall as she took great gulps of fresh air. She was smiling and sipping her tea.

Suddenly, after about 10 minutes, she stiffened. She could smell coffee. Cautiously she turned her head and found herself looking into the bluest eyes she'd ever seen. Long dark curls hung over his shoulders and he was warmly wrapped in a leather jacket and jeans. He smiled at her. Her back went up. How DARE he creep up on her!

Vin watched the changing emotions crossing her expressive face. Caution, fear, surprise, interest, he could identify with that, and finally anger. Hoping to calm the storm he smiled and spoke.

'Sorry, ma'am. Didn't mean ta scare ya.' He held up his coffee cup. 'Seems we had the same idea.'

Angel sat and regarded him for a moment, berating herself for leaving her sidearm at home. Unwilling to leave she tried to determine whether or not he was a threat. Vin could see her warring with herself and waited. Finally he said 'I ken leave iffen ya don't trust me.'

Seeming to come to a decision the girl smiled. 'Technically I should leave since you were here first.'

'Tha'ss ok, I ken share my view with y'all.'

'How gracious' Smiling she indicated the blanket. 'Please, join me. I'm Angel'

Vin was a bit stunned at that since he'd been thinking along those lines himself. Seeing the look on his face as he took up the offer she laughed. 'Not that kind of angel.'

Returning her smile Vin held out his hand. 'Vin'

They sat companionably for some time, sipping their drinks and watching nature's display. Finally, with stiff legs Angel rose, Vin's hand on her elbow.

She packed up her stuff and gathered her horse.

'Fine animal.'

'Highho? Yeah, I've had him stabled for the last few years while I was living in the city but I bought a place here recently so now he lives with me. He's a great guard horse.' Vin seemed to understand her reference to horses alerting owners when strangers approached and didn't comment.


'Because he's silver of course.' She grinned at the incredulous expression and swung up into the saddle.

'See you round Cowboy.'


'Will ya be back?'

''Spect so.' She called over her shoulder as she disappeared down the trail.

10am Chris's Ranch

'Hey Chris.' Vin smelled breakfast as he entered the house. He could hear JD and Buck bickering. 'Hey boys.'


'Hey Vin, tell Buck he has no chance with Mary's sister won't ya?' JD's voice came from under Buck's arm where he was firmly held in a headlock.

'Sure he does Kid.' At Chris's look he added 'A fat chance.'

Buck growled and released JD as the younger man tried to sink his teeth into Buck's forearm. 'JD!'

'What? I used the only weapon available and you were hurting my head. I did have a concussion ya know.'

'How ya feeling JD?'

JD grimaced, caught out by the medic's question as he came in through the back door. 'Fine Nate. Didn't see you there. Morning Josiah.'

'JD.' Getting a good look at the team profiler the others all began to laugh.

'You sure look different Josiah, new hairstyle?' Chris dared to tread where the others only gawped.

'Funny Chris, at least I didn't have to shave. In fact I'm not sure I ever will again.' They all joined in the laughter.

'Whatcha makin'?' Vin leaned over the stove peering under various saucepan lids.

Chris rapped the back of his hand with a spoon and glared at him. Vin just shrugged. He'd find out soon enough.

They were settling down to eggs, bacon, tomatoes, toast and coffee when Ezra arrived with croissants and Donuts. Joining the others at the table and grabbing his Starbucks Cappuccino out of JD's hands he surveyed his battered comrades. Just as well we have some time off he thought as he counted bandages and casts. Meeting Nathan's eye he shrugged.

'What is our agenda for today gentlemen?'

'Fixing that drooping porch over the woodshed, mucking out the horses, stocking up logs for the winter….'

'Gentlemen, please, you are aware that I do not…'

'…partake in menial labour, yeah we know' The others chorused grinning.

Chris surveyed his team and smiled. Everything was Ok with his boys. They were back to normal. Settling his gaze on the sharpshooter he paused. Something happening there. Blue eyes met Green.

What's up?


Enjoy the view?

Hell Yeah.

Hmmm. Who'd ya meet?


I see.



'Can you get a device that can listen into 'those' conversations JD? I'd dearly love to know what that was about' Nathan had caught the exchange.

Banter around the table ceased while everyone looked at Chris and Vin who returned the looks calmly. Despite the barrage of questions neither man gave ground and they finally gave up and moved off to do the day's chores.

Chris's Ranch Late Evening

Everyone had finally gone and he had Vin at his mercy. He regarded the man he considered his best friend over his whiskey glass. Vin was sprawled on the couch with a soda.


A girl.

I should hope so.

Pause. 'Got any new neighbours?'

'Not that I know of, no. The Daniels place has been on the market though. It's that cabin at the top of the hill, big picture windows overlook the valley.'

Yeah I know it.

'What's she like?' Oh that good?

Uh Huh.

She have a name?



'Night Cowboy.'

'Night Vin.'

Chris sat in silence thinking about his friend. Good to see Vin interested in someone. He wondered whether his shy friend would pursue it. Have to wait and see. Switching off the lights, Chris headed upstairs.

Angel's Cabin - Friday 5.30 pm

'Aunt Angel!' Angel caught the tousle-headed boy galloping towards her and returned his hug.

'Hey short stuff. How's life?' Without answering Billy tore off toward the corral. 'Hi Mare. Wasn't expecting you today.'

'We're going out to Chris's ranch. You're on the way and Billy wanted to see HighHo. How's it feel to be second to a horse in a man's affections?'

'Refreshing. Chris live round here?'

'Just over the hill. We're spending the weekend. Chris promised to let Billy have a go on one of his horses. He still can't get over that you won't allow him on Highho but I think he is beginning to understand that the horse is too strong for him. What are you planning this weekend?'

'Just going to watch the sunrises, maybe the sunsets too.' This with a secret smile that had Mary's interest piqued immediately.

'You met someone.' Statement not question.

'I think so. I don't want to talk about it yet Mare so don't push. Come and have some coffee.'

Sunrise Rock Saturday 5.20am

Angel rode to the rock looking around for the handsome cowboy. Nothing. Sighing and slumping her shoulders when a last look into the trees revealed no evidence of human habitation she poured her tea and turned her attention to the horizon.

Vin watched from his perch in the crooked tree. He grinned when she searched the woods obviously looking for him. And nearly laughed when she sat so dejected on that old blanket. Slipping down he made his way silently further down the path to approach again, noisily, seeming to have just arrived.

She heard him coming and was sitting up straighter and pretending to be engrossed in the view when he appeared through the undergrowth.

'Hey Angel.'

'Good morning Vin. Couldn't stay away huh?'

'Nope. Coffee?' He held his flask out towards her as he sat down on the blanket.

She wrinkled her nose at the thick dark sludge that lurked in the bottom of the canister. 'No thanks Vin I'm not really a coffee person. Tea?' She returned the gesture.

'Only if I'm made to for medicinal reasons. Ya don't drink coffee?' What kind of woman was this? Everyone drank coffee.

'Only Capucchino, possibly double Latte.'

'Horse pi.. Sorry. I meant yuk. Tha'ss not coffee. I have a friend who'd agree with ya though. I like it strong and dark.'

'So I see. I think your friend sounds like a man of taste and refinement.' She smiled at him, taking the sting from the words but her smile slipped with his come-back.

'Tha'ss the general opinion but who said it was a man?' Vin looked at her from under his lashes and bounced his eyebrows suggestively.

Angel considered him, chewing her lower lip.

'Don't do that, ya'll destroy the line.' He lifted his hand and placed his thumb against her lip, rubbing away the pain.

Angel's stomach dropped and she automatically parted her lips, holding her breath and waiting to see what he did.


His hand fell away and he pointed to the mountain where the colours were rapidly growing warmer. Gaping at him for a minute, she gathered herself and gazed at the beauty before them.

God Angel that was witless. Get a grip on yourself, don't chase him away.

She wasn't used to having to encourage men, rather the opposite, and she now appreciated that it was harder than it looked. Maybe he wasn't interested, hell maybe he was gay. She stole a look.

I think not. What to do?

As she sat and pondered she was unaware of Vin doing the same thing.

Why did you touch her Tanner? Now you're never gonna get any sleep. He wanted to taste her so badly it hurt and all he could do was change the subject. He didn't want to scare her off. He was aware of her covert glance and wondered for a minute if perhaps she'd wanted him too… Don't go there, maintain your sanity. For the first time since he could remember he needed to break a silence.

'So what do ya do? Ya said ya bought a place, do ya work it?'

Angel glanced at him grateful for the conversation if not for the topic.

'I promised myself when I first saw this rock that I'd never bring that four letter word here.' At his puzzled look she clarified. 'Work. Not that I don't enjoy what I do it's just, not here, if you get my drift.'

Vin could appreciate that and said so. He asked her what were safe subjects and heard her chuckle.

'Tell me what you see.' She closed her eyes and waited.

Hell that was a leading question.

When he said nothing she opened her eyes and looked at him again. 'The countryside, Vin, tell me what you know about our temporary haven.' The green eyes closed again.

He turned and looked out across the valley and the rising mountainside and managed to find his voice. Angel was amazed by what he knew about the flora, fauna and geology and astounded by the way he expressed it. Looks to drool over, the heart of a poet and, well, who knew what was under that Denim.

The sun was warm and his voice scratchy by the time he ended his monologue. Angel opened her eyes and smiled at him.

'Beautiful. You are truly eloquent. How about I treat you to breakfast at my place as a thank you? I will even let you make the coffee.'

'Sounds great but I'll have to make a call first - I'm kinda expected.'

'If it's putting you out…. Wait, you're not married are you?' Where did that come from? Angel cringed.

He snorted. 'Nah, just m'best friend and he has his girlfriend over so I'm a kinda third wheel anyways.' He opened his cellphone and pressed a couple of keys.

'Hey pard…. Yeah I'm staying out a while…. Breakfast? …. Had a better offer (smile)…. Yeah sure later.' He snapped the small box closed and bent to help her pick up the signs of their stay. Angel led the way back to where she'd left Highho a few hundred feet down the trail. Turning a corner she stopped dead.


'Vin, snake.'

'Stay still.'

'No problem. Couldn't move if I wanted to. Always hated snakes. Adam had the right idea in the garden of….' The nervous babble was abruptly cut off by a gunshot and the large rattler that had been getting aggressive suddenly lost its head. Literally. Vin expected Angel to be shocked by the snake, more so by the gunshot.

'Where the hell did you get that?' She pointed at the gun he was slipping back into the waistband of his jeans.

'Always carry it. I live in Purgatory.' Angel hadn't been in Denver long but understood the reference.

Smiling at the thought that ANYONE could live in Purgatory, on impulse she threw her arms round his neck and kissed him 'my hero'. Vin wasn't expecting the embrace but never one to look a gift horse in the mouth, immediately kissed her back.

A while later she drew back and smiled shyly. Now she's shy? 'I promised you breakfast. I never break my promises.' They set off again for the horses.

Chris's Ranch Saturday 10.45pm

'Howdy Pard. Good day?' Chris stood on the porch drinking beer and watching as his friend emerged from the barn after settling Peso. Vin grinned at him looking somewhat like the literary Alice's Cheshire cat.

'You didn't?'

Vin looked shocked and shook his head. 'She's a lady, Chris, of course not. Hell it wasn't even really a date. Had fun though.'

'Does this girl have no sense, picking up wild, woolly cowboys she finds straying in the woods?' Chris chuckled at his friend's expression.

'Have ya ever just clicked with someone Chris? Felt like ya knew 'em even though ya've never met 'em before…?' Catching the disbelief on Larabee's face he smiled sheepishly.

Not me Chris. Female.



Yeah. I just knew.

Yah Huh.

You're in trouble, Pard.