Here's the oneshot as it originally posted in the contest:
The author does not own any publicly recognizable entities herein. No copyright infringement is intended.
All sounds cease as I make my entrance into the saloon. Mutterings die out and eyes turn. I stand, my hand resting with ease on my Colt revolver. Not that it'd matter if anyone tried to draw, they'd be dead in their spot.
I cast my eyes over the half-naked ladies and even drunker men they're entertaining. Recognition flashes in their eyes as they shift nervously, afraid of even looking me in the eye. I smirk. That's the respect I demand, the respect I earned.
Edward Cullen fears no man, and as long as they know it, I can have my whiskey in peace. As I amble up to the bar, the room slowly comes back to life. Women titter about, hoping to make some coin as the men douse their sorrows in a glass.
"Got any coffin varnish?" I ask the baby-faced bartender.
He's been polishing the same glass since I took my seat, but stops and gives me his full attention as soon as I speak. With a frantic nod, he places a glass down in front of me. "He … here you go, sir."
With a tilt of my head, I pick up the glass and pour it back. "Another," I demand, slamming it on the bar top.
A soft arm slides across my shoulders and warm tits push into my arm. "How ya doin' there, cowboy?" The stench of another man permeates her pores.
"I was doin' good 'til ya sidled up here pressin' your stank against me,"
"Tanya," Baby Face snaps. "The man didn't ask for no company. Take your leave!"
"Well, excuse me," the whore huffs out, already stalking toward her next over-indulged victim.
Baby Face places my whiskey down with a shaky hand. "Sorry, sir. Sometimes them whores don't know their place." He swallows nervously. "Could I offer ya a bath be drawn and your clothes laundered?"
Just as I'm about to nod my consent, the sound of hoofbeats thundering on the dirt outside makes me tense. Schooling my expression, I eye the bartender. "Looks like I may not be round long enough to take ya up on that offer. Mighty damn kind offer it was, though." I give him a curt nod and spin in my chair, waiting for the newcomers.
The sound of spurs clinking against the wooden steps has me expecting four men to make an entrance. The first through the door is none other than Jacob Black, a well-known bounty hunter in these parts. He's been after my ass for years. The corner of my lip lifts at his cocky air.
"Well, well, what do we have here?" he asks with a smug smile. "Why it's none other than Edward Cullen, famed outlaw, wanted, dead or alive." He holds up my poster and waves it round the room, as if he has some chance of making it happen.
I always did hate that picture; black and white does me no justice. My hair looks a flat gray color and the bright green of my eyes appear to be black, soulless.
Before he can even blink, my Colt is drawn and a bullet rips the poster from his hands. Heads duck and whores scatter up the stairs. The drunkards sit with jaws dropped, not sure which side of this skirmish they want to be on. Best if they keep to themselves is all I can suggest.
Black's frame tenses and his hand goes to his holster. The other men, who had stood silently behind him, now step forward in a show of support.
"Are ya sure this is what ya be wantin' to do, Black?" I ask, but then revise. "I mean, attempt to do. You got no chance of takin' me from this here saloon, dead or alive." I stand, one gun already drawn, the other hand propped easily on its twin, my shotgun slung over my back.
Jacob's face turns menacing, like he might be trying to put the fear of god in me, but I done learned, ain't no man can make me fear my maker. Living the life I do, I'm sure to stand before him sooner than most.
"I guess we'll just have to see bout that then, won't we?" Black snarls, his hand twitching.
Fore he can grip his piece, though; a bullet rips through his skull. His men stand in shock, staring at their dead leader as he sways then drops where he stands, eyes staring into nothing. One of 'em turns tail and runs out the door, while the other two grab for their guns and dive, flipping the closest tables for cover.
On nimble legs, I jump behind the bar, pulling Baby Face down to keep him outta the hail of gunfire that's surely coming this way. Surprising me, he crawls over and grabs his own shotgun. Appreciative that he's chosen the right side, even though I don't need the help, I give him a nod and hold up my fingers for a count.
When I reach three, we both stand and exchange bullets with the two remaining posse members. Ducking and shooting, we finally manage to wound the both of 'em. One crawls out from behind the barricade clutching his stomach and calling for a truce while the other is gasping for his last breath. Slowly, I walk from behind the bar, gun trained on the living man.
Biggest damn mistake I ever made.
Cause the barely live man uses his last bit of strength to plant a bullet right smack in my side. Using that as a distraction, the surrendering man attempts to add another, but fails due to the gaping hole through his torso, created by Baby Face's shotgun.
I sink to my knees on the floor, my body rocked from the bullet and the pain that burns through me. I manage to give Baby Face an appreciative glance before sucking up the pain and struggling to my feet. Stumbling toward the saloon door, I make my way toward my horse just outside.
"Wait," Baby Face calls, running to catch up. "Where ya goin'? That wound's gotta be looked at and I can help."
Doing everything I can to pull myself on Arrow, I shake my head. "Can't do that. One of 'em got away, which means there's a shitload more a comin'. You go back in there and make sure everybody knows that Edward Cullen is the only one responsible for that carnage. Anyone who says otherwise will have to answer to me."
"Shucks, man. Those drunks know where their bread's buttered. They ain't gonna squawk on me for helpin' ya out. Shoot, you're a legend in these parts, even more so now that ya took out Jacob Black," Baby Face offers. "Lemme, at least, wrap ya battle wound."
Before I can refuse, he's off and running back to the saloon, the swinging doors flapping in the breeze. I shake my head at the kid's hero worship, but he need be worried. Whoever comes next might not be as by the book as Black. I feel real bad for leaving 'em in the lurch, but I gotta get outta here and get this damn wound tended if I'm gone live to see any more days.
When the young bartender comes running back out, he has white strips of cloth in one hand and a bottle of whiskey in the other. Already groaning from the pain, I suck in a huge breath and pull my arm up so he can get to the hole in my side. "Hurry, now, Baby Face. Get this shit over with."
Biting my tongue so as not to show weakness, I steel myself for the pain. And boy does it come in the form of hellfire racing over my skin. Whistling low, I fight with everything in me to shake it off. Baby Face wraps strips of cloth round my waist and secures it with a knot.
When he's done, I don't know if I'm better for it, but I express my gratitude all the same. "Thank ya, for all your help today. I must be goin' fore the next posse gets here."
"Will you be back?" he asks hopefully. "I mean I wanna know ya lived."
"What's your name, Baby Face?" I ask the scraggly, blond-haired, blue-eyed bartender.
He smiles all proud like it's the greatest honor in the world to have Edward Cullen inquire his name. "Jasper, sir. The name's Jasper."
"Well, Jasper, you can bet I'll live. Edward Cullen ain't gone die from a gunshot wound he's able to ride away from. When I die, it'll be in a blaze of glory," I assure him.
I tilt my hat and nudge my stallion. Kicking up dust, we make tracks away from the small town, hoping to put some distance between me and the next wave of men that I know are a coming. Grunting and hurting with every gallop, I push my mount to move faster and faster.
We ride past sundown and late into the night before I slow it down. Sweat beads on my brow and I'm barely able to stay atop Arrow. There's no way I'm gone make it to Carlisle's ranch, the ride's just too far. My bandages are stained red with my life's blood and if I don't stop the flow, I'm liable to bleed out on the trail.
I start scoping out the territory and when I finally see a light on the horizon, I begin to make my way toward it. From a distance, it looks to be a small cabin, but as I get closer, I can tell there's a barn placed far enough away that I should be safe for a few hours rest.
The barn is small and only holds one horse. I settle Arrow into an empty stall and rip my shirt to make fresh bandages. Removing the strips Jasper was kind enough to apply, I take inventory of my wound. It's red, angry and seeping blood. Using my flask, I grit my teeth and pour more whiskey over it before wrapping it as tight as I can stand.
Breathing heavy, I rest my weary head and finally am able to close my eyes.
The feel of cold metal under my chin has my eyes snapping open, the bright sunlight gleaming through the barn doors, obscures the face of the weapon holder. I stay still in order to keep my head from being blown off.
"What ya doin' trespassin' on my land," comes a demand. Only it's not what I expected at all, it's the voice of a woman.
I slowly pull my hands up where they can be seen. "I'm sorry, ma'am, but I been shot and couldn't ride no more. Your barn here was the first place I could find. I mean ya no harm," I say evenly, the gun pushing harder under my jaw.
"How do I know that as soon as I lift my shotgun ya won't attack? Ya already done snuck up on my land," she says, her voice still biting.
"Easy there, ma'am. If I was out to hurt ya, I'd have come into your cabin while you slept. I was just tryin' to rest so I could make it to my doctor friend." I motion to where my side is wrapped in my tattered shirt.
Indecision flickers over her face as her eyes slide down over my bare chest to rest on my side that's already showing red through the cloth. Taking the opportunity of her distraction, I grab the double barrel and snatch it from under my chin.
A blast echoes through the barn causing my ears to ring. I jump up and shake my head trying to clear the bells. Pain lances through my side at the quick movement and I drop back to my knees, gripping my head in one hand and my side in the other.
In my periphery, I can see the woman's mouth moving, but can't make out a word for the damn bells in my head. Rocking to the side, I roll back to my makeshift bed with a groan that I can't even hear leave my lips, but I feel in my chest.
Soft hands force me to lay straight back. With a questioning look cast in my direction, they go to the rags wrapped round my waist. This time, when her mouth moves, I can hear the hum of her voice, just not the words that are being spoken.
Assuming she wants to take a look, I give her a nod and tense, ready for the blinding pain. Only none comes. Her touch is gentle as she maneuvers the bandages, exposing the hole in my side.
" … need to remove … while I get … " Her words reach my ears in pieces, but I can only assume from the ones I did hear that she intends to help.
I grip her hands and wonder at the feel of her soft skin against my rough. Not even meaning to, I catch myself stroking the flesh with my thumb. "You tried to kill me," I say, curious to what her motives are for helping me.
She snatches her hands away and stands. "No, you idiot, you tried to kill yourself," she yells and every word is loud and clear. "I was only gone shoot ya if you meant me harm."
Closing my eyes and swallowing deeply, I accept her words. Maybe she wouldn't have shot me, but I can't take no risks with a shotgun under my chin, although the resulting fallout left me the worse for wear.
"I'm sorry, ma'am, I mean ya no harm. I just needed a place to rest," I say once more, trying my best to look earnest.
She huffs. "Very well then. Stay put and I'll go get my tools, that bullet's gotta come out." Fore I can ask what she means, she turns and leaves me gaping after her.
Not sure how long she'll be gone, I close my eyes in an attempt to quell the dull ringing that remains. Visions of the woman and the fierce way she stood over me dance behind my eyes. The fire in her eyes, the softness of her skin, they all play a tune in my mind.
A kick to my shin causes my eyes to snap open. "What's all that moanin' for? You in that much pain?"
Feeling heat flush over my skin, I look away, ashamed of the scenes playing behind my lids. "Uh, sorry, ma'am. I must've fell asleep."
She studies me carefully before heaving a big sigh. "No need for all this ma'am business, you can call me Bella." She places a tray she was holding on the ground beside me. "You need to eat up and build some strength cause what's a comin' ain't gone be pretty."
Glad to have something else to focus on, I raise up very carefully and grab the bread. Around a mouthful, I say, "Thank ya … Bella." Instead of feeling foreign on my tongue, it feels sweet to say her name. "You can call me Edward."
"How'd ya get that wound, Edward?" she asks, brow raised.
"Ran into some trouble 'bout a day's ride from here," I respond. "But don't worry, the other guy didn't make it." I smirk. She may not need a know all my business, but I don't want her thinking I can't be dangerous.
"As long as all you intend to do is get well and move on, I'm more than happy to oblige. Better not none of your mess follow you here, though, I don't take kindly to strange men with guns showin' up on my land." She crosses her arms over her chest and forms her own smirk.
"I can see that, Miss Bella," I concede. "I can just be on my way here shortly if you'd prefer?"
She kneels down and slides the now loose bandage from my wound. Shaking her head, she says, "I don't know how far ya goin', but ya won't make it if we don't get that bullet out. This here wound is infected." Her hand goes to my forehead. "You already gettin' the fever, too. We a wastin' time now."
Noticing she didn't bother to correct my use of miss before her name, I can't help but wonder what a single woman her age would be doing way out here with no protection. "Are ya sure you can remove it?"
"I either try, or you die on the trail. Take your pick." She stands and moves over to Arrow, who gives her a neigh as she rubs his nose.
"Well get on with it then," I snap. Her nonchalance is pissing me off and I don't even know why. Would she really let me die?
"That's what I thought." She nods and pulls a bag I hadn't even noticed from her shoulder.
"What ya got there?" I question.
"It belonged to my husband, he was the local doc fore he met an unlikely demise," she explains. "So you can guess, I've seen him treat many a gunshot wound."
"What happened to him?" I ask solemnly, as she positions herself beside me.
Her eyes meet mine and what I see there takes me aback. They're cold, unflinching. "He thought he could go into town and lay with whores and then come to my bed reekin' with their stench." She uses a little more force than necessary to remove the rags from my torso. "He don't think that no more."
This revelation rocks me to my core, she's more like me than I ever imagined. I almost wonder if I'm having hallucinations. Is this really happening, or am I out on the trail somewhere on my deathbed?
Swallowing thickly, I respond, "And no one missed him?"
She holds a tin cup to my mouth and encourages me to drink, the burn of whiskey hits my throat. "Ain't my fault he went to deliver a baby and never made it. Now drink up, there's sure to be some pain a comin' your way."
I do as she says and drink my fill of the whiskey she's offering. When my head is so fuzzy I can barely remember who I am, she pulls a knife and a pair of long pliers from the bag.
My eyes widen. "What ya gone do with those, pretty lady?"
Her eyes slide to mine and her lips curve up. "You think I'm pretty?"
"Any man'd be a fool not to see that. I don't know why one would go see whores when they had a woman like you at home," I ramble off things I'd have never said if it weren't for the spirits flowing through my blood.
She holds up the knife in front of her. "This is gone hurt some, but I gotta open you up to find the bullet." She focuses on my wound but still talks as she works. "I moved out to the west with big dreams. I thought I'd marry a man I loved and we'd raise a family on our land. Turns out, love ain't even real. Men don't know how to be faithful, and a woman is just posed to look the other way."
I flinch as the knife digs into my flesh. "All men ain't like that. I know some real faithful ones, they love their family more than anythin'."
Her eyes slide to mine and they sear me with their inquisitiveness. They're big and brown and look to hold a lotta secrets and dreams. "Are you like that, Edward? Are you a faithful man or you have a wife and kids somewhere while ya sit here and make eyes with me?"
Feeling this is a life or death question with the blade buried in my flesh, I go with the truth. "I ain't the marryin' type. I never was. I can see some appeal to it now, though." I try to offer what is a charming smile, but I can hardly feel my face for the pain in my side and the whiskey in my blood.
She finally pulls the knife from my skin and presses rags to stanch the blood flowing from the newly reopened wound. "That was a right good answer, Edward, but ya don't gotta make up stuff cause ya think I might end ya."
I chuckle then go to clutch my side, but her hands push mine away. "You can't touch it. When the bleedin' slows, I'll have to find that bullet."
My eyes fall closed for a second then I remember I never responded. "I wasn't lyin' to save myself, Bella. A beautiful woman like you is every man's dream. Unless he can only bring bad into her life, then he's best just thankin' her and movin' on." My eyes slide closed again and I'm having a hard time staying in the present.
"Looks to me like this woman don't mind trouble too much." Her soft words fill my senses and I'm not sure if she's speaking 'em or I'm imagining 'em. Then with a firmer voice, she says, "Now you're gone have to suck it up, I gotta dig out this bullet."
Tensing, I fight the pain as she plunges the pliers down into my side and searches for the slug. When I can't take the pain any longer, I succumb and allow myself to float to a place where I feel nothing.
The next thing I know, I wake up alone. Both horses are missing from their stalls, but there's bread and more whiskey on a tray beside me. Lifting my arm causes me to wince, but it's a manageable pain.
I scarf down what she left and lie back, allowing the whiskey to take over and numb my mind.
Over the next while, I sleep more than I'm awake. Sometimes Bella's here, holding my hand or wiping my brow, and sometimes I'm alone. There's always some kind a nourishment laid out for me. Sometimes it's bread and water, sometimes its broth, but every time that tin cup's full of whiskey.
Soft hands wipe my brow and I fight hard to make my eyes open, but they refuse. I'm left to imagine that Bella's with me and in my mind I can even hear her voice.
"How does the outlaw Edward Cullen end up in my barn with a gunshot wound and convince me to help him? Guess it wasn't too hard. With them clear green eyes and that rakish grin, how could I resist?"
Dread races through me even in my restful state. Am I dreaming, or does Bella know who I am? This must be a nightmare, cause surely as the day is long, she'd turn me in if she thought for one second I was a threat.
My mind conjures up more of her words and I swear I can feel the softness of her flesh as she pushes my riotous hair off my forehead. "Your fever's a breakin' and you gone wake soon, but then what? You gone leave? You goin' off to do more outlaw stuff? Wonder what that entails anyway?"
Madness, she's talking madness. It's as if she's pondering all my evil acts and weighing 'em, hoping to find some kind a life for herself. I can't let that happen, I can't allow Bella to even consider trading her comfortable life for one like mine. She's beautiful; small, just right, with long chocolate tresses, looking silky and smooth trailing down her back. And her hands … so soft.
Fighting as hard as I can, I rip my lids open only to be met with the most beautiful brown I've ever seen. I could get lost staring into those depths. Struck dumb, I search her, wanting to know if what I heard was real.
"Ho … how long you been here?" I ask, my voice scratchy from not being used. I take in my surroundings and realize it's completely dark with only the glow of a lantern illuminating the space, creating a halo round her angelic face. "How long I been out?"
"Three days," she answers simply. "Your fever got real high so I went into town to fetch some supplies." She gives me a knowing look.
So it's true, she knows. I gotta get outta here. Sitting up swiftly causes a searing pain to run through my side.
I groan and grasp my wound, hoping to quell the fire.
Strong but soft hands push me back into a laying position. "Now you listen here, Edward Cullen. You ain't fixin' to waste all my hard work just cause I know who ya are now. Nothin's changed. You're my patient and 'til I say you're ready to go, you ain't goin' nowhere."
The fierceness of her stare is unnerving, but it also brings about other feelings; ones she couldn't possibly be ready to understand. "You ain't intendin' on turnin' me in then?"
"If I was gone be turnin' ya in, I'd done so while you were knocked out cold. Just so happens I hated Jacob Black and would've killed him myself if he'd come back here one more time tryin' to make me his bride." She's all sass and fire and I love every second of it, but her words cause the bile to rise in my throat.
Jacob Black's been here? And he's tried to marry my Bella, my fierce, strong Bella. I'd dig that rat bastard up and kill him again if I could. That no good for nothing scoundrel didn't deserve someone as good as Bella.
"That makes me ten times happier that I killed him," I grit between clenched teeth.
Her hands move down to probe the bandage covering my side, so far it seems clear of blood. "Ya know they're lookin' for ya, right?" she asks, not meeting my eyes.
I grab her hands and hold them between mine. "I figured they would, which is why I needa get outta here."
Her eyes snap to mine and the franticness I see there burns me inside. I reach up and cup her cheek. "You know I gotta go, Bella. I can't drag you into my lawless lifestyle."
'No," she all but yells, leaning forward to push her lips against mine. It's unexpected but not unwelcome. The feel of her this close drives my senses mad. No matter the cost, I put my all into showing this woman she's everything I could want … if I was a different kind a man.
My hands automatically go to the swell of her hips. They wrap round her curves and grip on tight. Even the pain in my side ain't enough to keep me from falling completely, giving her every bit of myself that's available to give.
When I make the attempt to undo the buttons of her shirt, she pulls back, gasping. I feel the loss of her lips immediately. "We can't."
Horrified at what I done gone and tried to do, I start apologizing. "I'm sorry, Bella. I … I wasn't tryin' to push you into nothin'. You just turn me on so much and when ya kissed me like that, well, I lost my senses is all. I never meant—" Her fingers cover my mouth to stop my blabbering.
"Edward, I stopped cause you're not ready, not me," she says coyly.
I just stare at her like the stupid idiot I am. Never in my life have I been so outta sorts. I'm a man who's decisive and makes smart decisions on a dime. It's saved my life more than once. But here I am, a blundering idiot in the presence of a woman.
But that's when I realize, she ain't just a woman, she's the woman. The one who can make my blood boil with a simple touch; who can ignite my passion with her fierce attitude, the one who has me wanting to kill an already dead man —she's my woman.
I grab her and pull her close again, so close we're breathing the same air. "Oh, Bella, I'm so ready. More ready than I ever been before."
She rolls her eyes and answers with a small huff. "I meant, ya wound ain't healed enough." Her eyes glance to my lap then back to mine. "I can see other things are ready." Her playful look and the twinkle in her eyes brings reality crashing back down around me.
"Bella," I groan. "Please don't tease me that way." I look down, afraid to see her face fall as I say my next words. "I'm a wanted man. I can't let ya get close to me." I look back into her beautiful brown eyes. "Trust me, I want ya more than anythin', but I can't let myself have ya. I can't let ya get dragged into my way of life."
Instead of looking pissed like I expect, she looks smug. She sits up straighter and crosses her arms over her chest, one brow hitched up high. "Maybe you should a thought about that fore you got yourself shot and landed in my barn. As it is now, I'm guilty as you are."
I start shaking my head, desperate for her to listen to reason. "No, Bella. You ain't guilty of nothin'. As soon as I'm able, I'm gone get outta here and it'll be as if I never existed. No one has to know ya ever laid eyes on me."
"No one but that man buried behind the barn," she declares defiantly, that fire I love so much burning bright.
My eyes get so big that I can feel the tension from their stretching on my cheeks. "What!" I attempt to jump up, but all that does is have me falling back in a heap of pain on my hay bed. "No, Bella, no. Please tell me it ain't true," I say through moans as I grip my wound hoping against hope that I ain't set back my recovery. I gotta get away from here fore I ruin her life.
"What was I posed to do?" She shrugs. "He came here all demandin' and I let him check the cabin, but when he started for the barn, against my protests mind ya, well, he got what such a nosy man deserved." Her eyes are focused in the distance as if she's picturing the scene as she tells it.
My heart is bleeding for what I've done here, broken in two for the strife my presence has caused. Feeling so overwhelmed, I lay my head back and close my eyes in hopes of convincing myself I ain't already ruined her life.
Gentle fingers move over my wound. "Let me see if ya tore ya stitches, silly man. I don't know what's got you so frazzled, it's not like I ain't killed before. Any man who comes here thinkin' he's gone run roughshod over me, don't live to tell about it." Her fingers remove the bandage in a juxtaposition to her words. They're soft and gentle as she probes my side looking for damage.
Looking down, I see that it's red and angry, but all the perfectly aligned stitches are intact. And they some pretty ones, too. I don't think even Carlisle could've done a finer job. I watch her quietly as she rubs on some stinking ointment then carefully rewraps the bandages to keep out the dirt.
When she no longer has that to occupy her, she finally meets my eyes again. "Edward, tendin' to you has been the best thing to happen to me in a long time. Please, promise me you won't try and sneak away when I ain't lookin'."
And I can't deny her anything when she begs me that way. "I promise."
"Good." She smiles and what a smile it is. It's a smile I could live for. "Now, drink that whiskey and get a good night's rest. Maybe tomorrow we can get ya moved into the cabin."
She plants a quick kiss on my cheek and then she's up and outta there so fast I don't have time to respond. I lay there with my mind going in circles over the mess I done created. And after I fall asleep; my dreams are filled with ways I can keep her; ways that I want her.
Only they not dreams at all.
The next evening, with Bella's help and against my protests, I get moved to a warm bed in her small home. What follows is the most sensual bath I ever had and that was just with a sponge. I can't even imagine what she'd do if I could get into a tub.
This woman is driving me mad. Her strong exterior don't take no for an answer. She says what she wants and then she makes it happen as if I'm some puppet on a string. Tough outlaw Edward Cullen can't even tell a mere woman no.
Every day that passes brings me closer and closer to what I know is gotta happen. My strength builds, but my weakness for her knows no bounds. All she'd have to do is ask and I'd stay here with her 'til my dying days, and round these parts, that wouldn't be far off.
We can't just kill everyone who comes looking, eventually, someone would get suspicious. The only way I know to save her is to leave her, and that thought alone destroys me. Every day I learn something new about her and each day, it's better than the last.
Not only is she fierce and brave, but she's smart as a whip and cunning as well. She can easily shoot a gun half as good as me, and that's saying a lot. Most men don't fare that well. She's everything a man like me could want … 'cept for that pesky little outlaw part.
Two weeks into my stay and I'm feeling almost one hundred percent. Bella took the stitches out three days ago and the scar's holding tight. I'm able to ride Arrow without too much discomfort and I can still draw faster than a normal man. All in all, I'm a healed man which means I gotta break us both. There ain't no other choice for me.
I find her in the kitchen, taking a pan of bread out the cast iron oven. Something that smells like stew is a brewing on top. Circling my arms round her waist, I place teasing kisses on her neck. "Smells mighty fine in here," I say lowly in her ear, causing her to shiver.
She turns in my arms with a hum. "Everythin's perfect now that you're in here. Ready to eat?"
"Oh, I'm ready to eat all right." I smirk and plant my lips on her exposed collar bone.
She giggles and pushes me away. "That's dessert, we need a have supper first, build up our strength." She winks and goes to grab a couple bowls.
When her back is turned, I can't help but let my face fall. I won't be making it to dessert. During supper, I intend to tell her I'm leaving. I know she's gone kick up a fuss, but this is the one thing I have to stand firm on. Her life is worth more to me than anything and if leaving her will save it, then that's damn well what has to happen.
She sets out the bowls filed with stew and I guess my face wasn't as passive as I'd liked cause she moves to my side. "What's goin' on, Edward? You ain't lookin' like a man who's waitin' on dessert."
I take a seat and focus on the food before me. "Have a seat. We'll talk while we eat."
"I can see your mind whirlin'," she snaps. "You already done moved away from me in your head, ain't ya? Well, I got news for you, Outlaw Edward Cullen; it ain't gone be that easy!" She slams down the pan of biscuits and snatches out her chair, huffing as she plops down.
I meet her angry eyes. "Bella—"
"Don't you Bella me, you, you dirty rotten scoundrel." Fire glints in her brown eyes, but I also see torment. The same torment I'm sure is reflecting in my own. "You think you can decide whatever you want and I'm posed to just accept it. Well, you can forget that, mister! And if I catch ya tryin' to sneak out in the middle of the night, I'll shoot ya myself!"
I get up and go to her, dropping to my knees at her side. "Please, Bella. Ya gotta lemme go." I lower my head in her lap and grip her breeches-clad legs tight in my arms. This is the closest in my life I ever felt like crying. I can almost feel my eyes stinging.
Her hand lands in my hair, soothing my weary soul. "I can't," she says, her voice cracking. "You were meant for me, Edward Cullen. And whatever that means, then so be it."
I nuzzle into her lap once more before raising my head. What I see there tears me to shreds. Tears are running down both cheeks, but her jaw is set, hard, unrelenting.
She ain't backin down.
Knowing I got no other choice, I prepare to say the words that'll break us both.
To save her, I gotta hurt her.
I clench my jaw and ready myself to spew the most blasphemous lie I ever said, but before I can get the words out, hoofbeats thunder outside.
Bella jumps up. "Stay here," she orders, already leaving the room.
Knowing those men are here for me, I attach my holster and sling my shotgun over my shoulder. Sneaking out the kitchen door, I take up a spot where I can eye what's going on with Bella.
I can't make out what's being said, but I can tell by her posture that she ain't happy. She's still got her double barrel aimed at the lead guy, not relaxing her stance one bit. When I notice one of the latter guys twitch toward his weapon, I don't hesitate.
He falls to the ground with a bullet between the eyes. Same for the guy standing next to him. Not missing a beat, Bella blows a hole through the guy she was talking to, and then takes a shot at the last one. He barely makes it behind the outhouse with his life.
Bella goes in, slamming the door behind her and it isn't but a minute fore she's joining me at my post. "What the heck, Edward?" she whispers. "I had them men right where I wanted 'em."
I shake my head. "Naw, that one guy was gettin' ready to shoot first and ask questions later." I grab her cheek in my palm. "And I ain't lettin' no man extinguish what belongs to me."
She closes her eyes and a serene expression takes over. When she open 'em up again, that fires a burning. "Damn right, Edward Cullen. I'm yours." Her lips mash to mine in a kiss so fierce, I almost go light-headed … 'til that bullet ricochets off the cabin.
"Let's move!" I whisper-yell.
Following my lead, we make our way to the barn and saddle up Arrow and her horse, who I now know is named Jane. I turn to Bella. "If we got any chance of gettin' far enough away, he's gotta die." I press a hard kiss to her lips. "I'll be right back. Be ready."
"Wait," she calls, grabbing my arm.
I look to her and smirk. "No worries, Bella. This is what Edward Cullen does." With a wink, I'm out the barn door and hunting down the last man to stand between me and Bella's freedom.
We're up on a ridge overlooking the small wooden building that's our next target. "Me and Baby Face will take the front and you two ladies bring up the rear. No one gets outta that building 'til we get what we came here for. Got it?"
Baby Face nods, happy to do anything I say, but not them women folk. Bella huffs and crosses her arms. "Why we always gotta take up the rear? You act like ya the only one who can bust through a door."
"Yeah," Alice, Baby Face's sidekick, chimes in. "You two act like we're weak and frail, when really, we all know who runs this posse."
I ignore Alice's whiney self and look to Bella, rolling my eyes. "You know I don't think you're weak, far from it, but this holdup is more important than that bank heist last week. This is the most important holdup of my life and I want it to be perfect."
Bella sighs a big, girly sigh and turns to Alice. "We do it Edward's way."
Alice huffs but knows better than to open her mouth to Bella.
I smirk. "Let's go."
We bust through the small wooden doors, guns drawn. "Everybody get your hands up!" I yell to the three people standing there with dropped jaws.
Hands fly into the air as confused expressions replace the shock from seconds ago.
"Baby Face, you and Alice guard the door," I order, tilting my head for Bella to join me.
She takes my flank, and we move farther up the aisle. "Who's the preacher here?" she asks, shifting her gun between our hostages.
When nobody speaks up fast enough, she walks to the closest one and shoves that double barrel right into their chest. "I asked, who the preacher here is," she says it all real slow like.
The man finally snaps from his daze and starts stuttering, "He … he is." He points to a man on the right side of him.
"See how easy that was?" Bella smiles at him and even he's affected by it. He starts to smile back, 'til the woman beside him elbows him in the ribs.
I approach the preacher. "Me and my woman here would like to get hitched. And you gone be the one to do it," I say matter-of-factly. It ain't like he's got a choice.
"Ya … ya want me to marry ya?" His dumb act only pisses me off.
I step closer, right up in his face. "What? Ya think we ain't got no right to get married just cause we outlaws?"
"N … No, sir. I didn't say that. God recognizes all unions made before him," he replies and he better be glad, too. I don't mind hunting down a more willing preacher man.
"Then it's settled," Bella breaks in, walking to my side. She grabs my hand and pulls me to stand before the altar. "You two, over here to witness." She points with her gun where she expects the hostages to stand. "And you"—she turns back to the slack-jawed clergy—"what you waitin' on?"
The preacher snaps his jaw shut and makes his way to stand before us. He meets my eyes first, and receives a nod. But when he looks to Bella, the beaming smile she's sporting is contagious.
With a smile of his own, he joins us in unholy matrimony.
Cause sure as hell, we ain't wanted in heaven.
Thank you for all your wonderful words :)