Chris Larabee took a slow drag from his cheroot cigar as he watched Ezra Standish exit the saloon for the tenth time in the past thirty minutes. The gambler shuffled his hat between his left and right hand as his emerald eyes scanned the street. His auburn hair was still slightly damp from his bath and slicked neatly against his scalp. His attire was new and tailored to fit perfectly. Light winked off the gold watch chain dangling from the silk double breasted vest. The weeks' worth of growth was gone from Ezra's chin. The gambler looked eager, yet nervous, and the reason the gambler was so anxious brought a small smile to Chris' lips.
Ezra noticed Chris' stare and sent an aggravated look his way before disappearing back inside the saloon.
"Ezra's lookin' awfully nervous." Vin Tanner drawled from the hotel's doorway, his lithe body leaning against the frame. "What time's the stage come in?"
"One" Chris answered.
"Word is he's been pacing around the saloon since eight this morning." Vin chuckled. "Turned down two poker games and hasn't had a drop of liquor since last night." Chris raised an eyebrow slightly.
"Mmm, hmm." Vin settled down next to Chris and wiped a bead of sweat from his brow. "Of course, that can't last for long."
"I don't think anyone's expecting it to."
Ezra pushed himself out of the chair and wandered toward the door once again before stopping himself. He stole a glance at his pocket watch after scanning the known faces inside the saloon. It was five after one. The stage was late. Not that he was expecting it to be one time. They rarely were.
But Josephine was on that stage and he could hardly grab a few hours of sleep last night at the anticipation to see her again. And the extra five minutes were nearly unbearable.
"You're wound up tighter than a cheap watch, Ezra." A heavy hand landed on his shoulder as the owner of the familiar voice walked up behind him. "Nervous?"
"Not at all, Mr. Wilmington." Ezra answered, his voice louder than necessary. "Why would I be?" Buck tossed him a knowing smile.
The sound of approaching hoof beats send Ezra's heart racing. He shook Buck's hand off his shoulder and stepped back out into the daylight, placing his hat atop his head before straightening the black frock coat he wore. He attempted to look relaxed and leaned his body against a support post as the stage approached. He noticed the amused grins from Vin and Chris as they sat across the street and scowled. He crossed his arms defiantly over his chest and tilted his chin up. The pleased grins widened and Ezra forced his eyes away from the men across from him.
The horses came to a halt in front of the stage company. The driver jumped down and pulled open the carriage door, a welcoming voice floating along the breeze. The sound of her voice almost caused Ezra to break into a sprint as he approached the stage. His restlessness turned into excitement when he watched her step down from the stage, with help from the guiding hand of the overly friendly driver. Ezra's jaw set when the bearded man's hand lingered on Josephine's waist just a little too long and he quickened his stride, reaching Josephine's side just as she was saying her thanks.
Her sapphire eyes widened when they focused on him, a dazzling, dimpled smile spreading across her face.
"Ezra!" she cried out, throwing her arms around his neck as she pulled him close for a hug. Ezra wrapped his arms around her waist and drew her close, the subtle scent of her perfume filling his nose. She pressed her body against his, brushing her thigh slightly against him, giggling softly so only he could hear. "I missed you." she said gently before pulling away from him.
"I missed you as well, my dear." Ezra said as he allowed his eyes to wander over Josephine's body. The cerulean colored princess-line dress fit smoothly over her body from her shoulders to her hips, accenting her curves yet still modest enough for day wear. Her dark hair was pulled up at the sides and hung in tight ringlets that brushed her shoulders. She looked surprisingly put together after the half-day ride from the train station.
"Miss Devereaux." The sound of Buck's voice startled Ezra momentarily, ignorant of the man's presence until he pushed past, an eager smile on his face and his hat pressed against his chest. "Welcome back to Four Corners. And if I may say, you are looking exceptionally beautiful today."
"Mr. Wilmington," she offered him a gloved hand, which he brought to his lips. "it's a pleasure to see you again."
"Oh, believe me, the pleasure is all mine." He could feel Ezra's heated stare and made a show of ignoring it. The thought of Erza all riled up brought him immense joy.
"Mr. Wilmington, I'm sure you have some place to be." Ezra hissed.
"Not really, Ezra." Buck replied, his eyes never leaving Josephine. Calming himself with a sharp intake of air, Ezra regained his composure, not wanting to give Buck the satisfaction of knowing just how upset he actually was.
"Miss Devereaux, need any help with your bags?" The stagecoach driver asked eagerly, casting wary glances at Buck and Ezra.
"No." Ezra retorted, yanking the small bag from the burly man's grasp.
"Thank you, though." Josephine added. The driver tipped his hat, the upset and annoyance clear before rushing into the stage office.
Ezra grabbed Josephine's remaining two bags before Buck had a chance to, tucking the smallest, and the lightest, underneath his arm. "Shall we?" he asked.
"Josephine, have you eaten yet?" Buck asked, stepping in front of Ezra and dipping his head close to Josephine. "Because that restaurant right over there serves the best lunch."
"C'mon." Buck offered his arm, which Josephine gingerly took. "Ezra's got your bags, right, Ezra?" This time, there was no hiding the anger and frustration the gambler felt.
"Thank you, darling." Josephine's eyes brightened with her smile and she cupped Ezra's cheek tenderly, offering him a tiny pout before Buck led her down the street.
Heaving a deep sigh, Ezra situated Josephine's bags so they were easier to carry and made his way begrudgingly toward the hotel.
"Need a hand, Ezra?" Vin called out, the smirk even more prominent on his face.
"No, thank you, Mr. Tanner." Ezra hissed through clenched teeth before disappearing into the hotel. Vin chuckled and shook his head. "I can hear you!" Ezra's Southern drawl echoed out into the street, his frustration quite apparent.
"Excellent hearing our friend has." Chris bemused, taking the last drag from the cigar.
"Ah, poor Ezra." Vin sighed, leaning back into the seat.
"Well, it's his own fault. If he wouldn't let Buck see how much he upsets him, Buck wouldn't act the way he does around Josephine." Chris said.
"Well, at least it's entertainment for the rest of us." Vin surmised as he pulled himself to his feet. "Hungry?" Chris looked up thoughtfully at the former bounty hunter, recognizing the playful glint in his eyes. Buck would certainly be pouring on the charm and there was no doubt Vin wanted to be there to watch every second. Chris slapped the side of his leg and stood.
"I suppose I could eat." Chris straightened the hat on his head before following his friend across the dusty thoroughfare. "Poor Ezra."