Part 2

(Epilogue: A few weeks later)

Then I feel you beside me and even their memories are gone….

On a bleak morning in mid-December, Kitty, Matt, and Doc sat at a green felt-covered table close to the old pot-belly stove, their hands wrapped around their coffee cups for added warmth. Dodge was generally quiet at this time of year-no herds up from Texas, no drummers making their rounds, and the bitter cold was keeping the local folk indoors, busy with their holiday preparations.

From her vantage point across the table, Kitty watched Matt for several minutes, a silent listener to the light banter between the two men. As she watched, his ruggedly handsome face broke into a wide grin and a rich laugh erupted from deep in his chest. His blue eyes were crinkled and twinkling with amusement. How she loved that face, that deep laugh, those incredibly expressive eyes that reflected every mood, every emotion no matter how carefully he maintained a stoic exterior. Oh, how she loved him!

They had buried Leona the day after that dreadful November night, and Matt returned to the warm of Kitty's bed and the comfort of her body. For all intents and purposes he was the same tender, selfless lover he had been for all of their fourteen years together. But the beautiful, perceptive redhead who held him in her heart sensed that something was wrong—or at least not quite right. She smiled. Yes, it was good to hear him laugh again. She roused from her reverie as Doc rose from the table, mentioning that he needed to ride out to the Tucker farm to check on Sally Tucker, the young wife who was expecting their first baby just in time for the New Year.

With just the two of them left at the big table, Kitty scooted over a few seats until she was next to Matt. No one else was in the room but Sam, and it wasn't likely that anyone would be coming in anytime soon. Placing a soft hand on top of the marshal's large, calloused one, she leaned into his side and spoke gently. "It's sure good to have you back again, Matt."

He gazed at her for a long moment, and then as comprehension dawned, he gave her a guilty grin. "I guess I have been a little pre-occupied lately."

"Is it Leona?" Kitty asked, feeling pretty sure that it was not.

He shook his head. "Not really, but what happened did get me to thinking. I said Lee didn't have your strength, your courage. I was wrong about that. In the end, she had enough of both to take a bullet for me. She gave her life for me, Kitty. Now that's hard enough for me to live with, but it makes me think...I've been thinking about..." He shifted in his chair and pushed the big Stetson back on his head so that his eyes bore straight into hers. For a brief moment he closed his eyes against the blinding love he saw there and then continued. "Frankly, Kitty, it scares the hell out of me to think what you might…" He swallowed hard. "Kitty, promise me you'll never try something like…."

She pressed her fingers against his lips, interrupting his words. "Please, Matt, don't ask me to make a promise I could never keep."

He simply stared, his throat too constricted to say anything beyond a strangled, "I'll see you later," as he rose and walked out through the bat wing doors and into the icy wind blowing in from the Kansas prairie.

Her sapphire eyes followed his retreating form into the dark night and she whispered softly, "You have no idea what I'd be willing to do for you, Cowboy."

Old flames can't hold a candle to you…..

The End

AN: I have sent personal thanks to all who are registered here, but I would also like to thank SuzyQ, tengland2, and Sarah for your kind words.