Chapter 6

Violet came towards Johnny and she touched his face. Her eyes were warm and she smiled.

" Let me ride with you, Johnny." She said. " Take me away with you."

" I don't know, Violet." He drawled gently. " I never stay in one place for long."

" As long as I'm with you, I don't care where I am or what I'm doing. We'd be good together, Johnny. I'm a hell of a gunfighter and…" She grinned as she ran her hand down his chest. " I have other talents you might appreciate as well."

She started to undo his belt and Johnny groaned…..

Johnny groaned as consciousness returned and he opened his eyes. It wasn't a groan of pleasure from the wonderful dream he'd been having about Violet, but one of excruciating pain from the burning and throbbing in his shoulder. He'd passed out, that he knew, but for how long? Where the hell was Jackson with Violet? He hoped she'd be able to get this damn bullet out and sew him up.

He tried to sit up, but a wave of dizziness made him lay back down. His shirt was soaked with blood and he knew the wound was still bleeding.

" Andrews!!" He tried to shout, but it came out more as a loud whisper. He took a deep breath and tried again. This time the man came over to the makeshift tent where Johnny lay.

" I need water." He rasped.

" Sure, Ringo." He said and hurried to get some for him. He returned and helped Johnny sit up to drink it.

" Where the hell is Jackson?" Johnny demanded.

" He should be here soon, Ringo." Andrews said. " You're bleeding bad."

" I know." Johnny snapped. " Do something to stop it."

Andrews wasn't the brightest cowboy, but he was one hell of a shot, so that kept Johnny from shooting him on a daily basis. Right now he was reconsidering his generosity on that front as the dense man stood there looking around without a clue on how to help Johnny.

"Ah, hell!" Johnny said. " Get away from me!"

The sound of horse hooves could be heard and Johnny breathed a sigh of relief. Violet was here and he was still alive. He saw Jackson first and the man looked scared to death.

" Did you bring Violet?" Johnny asked angrily.

" Uh…yeah, Ringo. I brought her, but…uh.."

Violet came over to where the men stood. She was going to make a smart-ass remark about what a fix Johnny had gotten himself into, but when she saw him laying there so pale and all the blood she couldn't speak.

"Over here, Doc." She said.

" Doc?" Johnny said, his eyes growing wide. He looked at Jackson who took a step back when he saw the look in Johnny's eyes.

" I had no choice, Ringo." He said. " The woman insisted."

" Challenger's going to kill you." Andrews said.

" Shut up!" Johnny said as Violet and the doctor absorbed that information. "Get this bullet out, Doc. Now."

Doc Howard moved to kneel beside Johnny. He took a look at the wound.

" Move him outside so I can see." He said, " And get that shirt off."

Andrews and Jackson lifted Johnny as Violet laid a blanket outside of the tent. Johnny cried out at the movement and Violet hurried to his side as they put him down on the blanket. His face was drained of all color now and his jaw was clenched in pain.

"Easy, Johnny." She said caressing his forehead.

She reached for the buttons on his shirt and undid them. The doc helped her sit him up to slide it off and Johnny thought he might get sick. The last thing he wanted to do was throw up all over Violet.

Violet looked at Doc Howard. He hadn't wanted to come. Like everyone else in town, he knew Johnny's reputation. Violet's begging and Jackson's gun had convinced him to help the outlaw. Resigned to the job at hand, he was gentle as he examined the wound.

"I won't lie to you, Mr. Ringo. This is gonna hurt like hell." He said.

"Just do it." Johnny said through gritted teeth.

"Give me that whiskey." Doc said to Violet. He poured the alcohol over the wound and Johnny swore as the burning increased. Violet took his hand and he gripped it tightly.

"You fellas hold him down." Doc said to Jackson and Andrews. Andrews moved behind Johnny's head and Jackson to his legs.

" Drink some of this." The doc said lifting Johnny's head to pour the whiskey into his mouth. Johnny sputtered, but managed to swallow the spirits. As the doc prepared to remove the bullet, Johnny's eyes found Violet's. She placed her free hand on his chest.

" You're gonna be ok, Johnny." She said softly. She squeezed his hand with the one he held.

The last thing Johnny remembered before he blacked out was unbearable pain and Violet's warm green eyes.

When he came to it was those warm green eyes that greeted him. The pain was still intense, but not mind numbing like before.

" Welcome back." Violet said.

She'd spent the last few hours watching him sleep restlessly. He had a fever, which Doc had said to expect and she hoped he wouldn't succumb to the inevitable infection from the bullet. She was cooling him down with water when he woke.

" That feels good." Johnny mumbled. He was hot and the cool water on his skin felt wonderful.

" We should really get you into town and into a bed." Violet said.

" Your bed?" He said wryly.

" Feeling better already?" She asked with a smile.

Johnny coughed and the movement sent waves of pain through his shoulder.

" Here, drink some water." Violet said helping him to do so. " Do you think you could hold on if I took you to town?"

Johnny hated the idea of riding behind Violet into town. He hated feeling helpless and weak, but the idea of a soft bed right now was mighty appealing.

"Gotta take care of something first. " He said. " Where are Jackson and Andrews?"

He didn't need them blabbing to Challenger about Violet knowing about the camp. He'd take care of them now and deal with the Doc when he was feeling better.

" You get the horse ready."

Violet left and the two men came over to Johnny.

"Boys, it's time the two of you moved on." He said.

" Aw, Ringo. We won't say nothin' to Challenger." Andrews said.

" I know you won't. Not if want to live." He said.

" What are you gonna do, Johnny?" Jackson said laughing. " We could kill you right now."

Johnny's gun was pointed at the two men before they could blink.

"It's not my shooting arm." He said. " I suggest you two go quickly before I change my mind."

Johnny smiled at the sound of the two men riding away. The gun fell from his hand and he wondered if he'd have been able to pull the trigger if he'd needed to. He was as weak as a kitten. Good thing those boys were dumb.

" All set." Violet said coming back. She'd heard the conversation and wondered if Johnny would have shot those two men. She knew the stories, but she'd never seen him actually kill someone. She didn't want to think about the answer to that question right now. " Can you stand?"

She moved to slip an arm under his back and helped him sit up. Blackness threatened again, but it passed as Johnny took a deep breath. Leaning heavily on Violet he managed to get to his feet.

" I've got you." She said.

" Damn!" Johnny said. He hated needing her help like this, but he wouldn't have accepted it from anyone else.

Getting onto the horse, just about did Johnny in. It took his last ounce of strength and once Violet was on he wrapped his good arm around her waist and closed his eyes. He fell asleep twice on the way to town and Violet had to wake him so he wouldn't fall off. Finally they were in Violet's bedroom above the saloon and he was laying on her soft bed.

He was out cold as soon as his head hit the pillow. Violet pulled off his boots and put a blanket over him. Exhausted herself she curled up beside him and fell asleep.

Violet woke feeling very warm. The fog in her mind cleared and she remembered that Johnny was in her bed. She also realized that the heat was coming from him. She rolled over and touched his forehead. He was burning up.

He mumbled in his sleep as he moved his head restlessly on the pillow.

" Challenger….gotta get moving." He muttered.

At the mention of the Sheriff's name what Andrews had said yesterday came back to Violet. Was Challenger working with Johnny Ringo? She'd never quite trusted the law man and now she thought her doubt might be with good reason.

She looked down at the sleeping outlaw. Emotions that she didn't want to feel overwhelmed her. The tenderness she felt for this man was a waste of time. Their lives could never blend.

Johnny groaned and called out her name. Violet leaned over him, placing her hand on his chest.

" I'm right here, Johnny." She said wondering if he was cognizant or just calling her name in delirium.

" Hurts, Violet." He muttered. " So hot."

She pulled the blanket off of him and unfastened his pants. She slid them off him hoping that would help cool him down. She got up to get some cool water, but he grabbed her arm with his good hand.

" Don't go." He said, his eyes opening. They were feverish, but he seemed to be focusing well enough.

" I'm just going to get some water to help cool you down." She said. " I'll be right back."

The answer seemed to satisfy him because he let go of her and closed his eyes again. Violet got the basin of water and a cloth then returned to sit on the bed and cool Johnny down.

" Don't leave me, Violet." Johnny said drowsily. " I need you."

His body relaxed and his breathing became more even so Violet knew he had fallen back asleep. His words played over and over in her mind. I need you. Johnny Ringo didn't need anyone. She had to keep reminding herself that it was just his fever talking.

Once he was well he would be on his way without a second thought about her until he rode into town one night looking for a warm body. Why did the thought of him leaving hurt so much?

Violet went upstairs after closing the bar and tried not to notice the thrill of anticipation she felt and had felt since Johnny had been staying with her. It had been a week now and his fever was gone, but he had still been too weak to be on his own. That spark of joy dissipated as soon as she entered her living quarters and saw Johnny dressed and fastening his gun belt.

" What are you doing up?" She asked. " Your shoulder is far from healed. You could still rip open those stitches."

" Got some business to take care of Violet." Johnny said. " But there's something I'd like to discuss with you first."

Johnny had spent all day trying to figure out how to tell her that he wanted her to go with him when he left town. He had never been so nervous about anything in his life, then again, he'd never loved anyone before. He took a deep breath as she looked at him expectantly.

" Well, what is it?" She asked impatiently. She knew his being up and about meant he'd be leaving soon and that made her irritable. She'd gotten used to having him around. Stupid girl.

" Violet, " He said moving to her and pulling her tight against him. " you and I are good together. You……..understand me."

" As much as anyone can, Johnny, I guess I do." She said with a small smile. He grinned.

" Come with me when I leave town, Violet." He said. " I don't want to ride alone any more."

She knew a confession like that from a man like Johnny Ringo didn't come easily.

" We live different lives, Johnny." She said wishing it weren't true.

" Not so different." He said. " We're both just trying to survive. I know you feel something, Violet."

He kissed her, his tongue stroking hers in a thorough hot kiss. Violet was breathless when he pulled back.

" I love you, Violet." He said.

" Then stay here with me." She said. " I have the saloon, we could make a decent living."

" I need to keep moving, Violet." He said. " Don't you get tired of this old town? Think of the places we could see."

Violet was tired of her meaningless existence in this town. Every day was the same and very lonely. Johnny was exciting. Dangerous, but never dull. Maybe…..

" Where are you going, Johnny? Not when you leave town. Right now? What business do you have to take care of?"

Johnny hesitated.

" If you can't tell me, then I can't go with you." She said. " I won't live with a man with so many secrets."

" Some things you're better not knowing." He growled stepping back. " I'm not going to beg. I'll be back in the morning. If your answer is yes, be waiting for me behind the livery stable at sunrise."

He kissed her once more, a brief, yet, sound kiss, then he was gone.

Violet looked at her packed bag and then back out the window to the livery stable. She needed to decide once and for all. She longed for the Johnny who had made tender love to her in the middle of the night.

If that was the whole man she would be downstairs in a flash, but there was so much more to Johnny Ringo that she didn't like or didn't know. What kind of life could she have with a man like that? She knew his reputation could be worse than the actual outlaw, but how could she be sure?

She heard shouting outside and looked to see a group gathering around the doc's office. She hurried downstairs and went outside the saloon doors.

"What's going on?" She asked Marty Jacobs as he hurried past her.

" Doc's missing and there's blood in his office. Looks like there was a struggle of some sort."

Violet felt a chill down her spine as the truth dawned on her. Johnny had killed Doc Howard because he knew about Challenger and his camp up river. That had been the business he needed to attend to last night. She knew the doc was dead, and she had signed his death warrant by insisting he help Johnny.

How had she let herself fall for a man like that? She should tell someone the truth, but who? Sheriff Challenger would only have her killed if he knew that she knew about the camp as well. There was nothing to be done. She could go after Johnny herself and kill him, but she….how could she love a man who was capable of such things?

He loved her, that's why she was alive, but she didn't want his love. Johnny Ringo would be leaving town alone and, if and when he returned, Violet would not be so stupid again.

Johnny waited behind the stable. It was two minutes after sunrise and Violet still hadn't shown. The dull throbbing in his shoulder was like a blow to the stomach. She wasn't coming. After all her tender care of his shoulder and keeping him alive, she had abandoned him.

"So this is heartbreak." Johnny muttered to himself.

He wasn't going to lie to himself, he really half-expected her to come. Maybe she wasn't cut out for this life. He looked down at his boots and noticed a few drops of blood on them.

He leaned down and with his gloved hands wiped the doc's blood off. He knew it was the reason Violet hadn't shown. She knew now what the life of an outlaw meant. Having to kill someone at a moments notice. No, he didn't want that for her. She was too good for this life.

After a few minutes of struggle, Johnny finally sat atop his horse. He gave one last look at the saloon and gave a swift kick to the horse, riding off into the sunrise and never looking back. He knew he'd be back someday, maybe sooner than he thought.

A figure stood watching in the distance. She watched the outlaw wait impatiently and saw how much trouble he had mounting the horse, but she didn't offer and assistance.

Violet watched with a hardened look on her face as Johnny rode off. Johnny Ringo had too much blood on his hands. Doc Howard, those two men found a few days ago, and who know how many others. She needed to get on with her life now.

She had a saloon to run and she needed to keep an eye out for Sheriff Challenger. If he was working with Johnny there was no doubt he was as crooked as a snake. Violet gave one last glance and started back. She had work to do.