I own nothing. I am just a fan.
Lily smiled slightly at Mr. Durant and pressed a hand to her temple. "I thank you, Mr. Durant, for the dance, but I'm afraid all the exercise has gone to my head. I need a breath of fresh air; please do excuse me." She hurried away before he could reply, and a surreptitious glance behind her told her what she had expected; he had been drawn into conversation with one of his precious "financial backers."
In truth, she didn't need the break.
In truth, she had seen Mr. Bohannon while she was being twirled. He had been just outside the dance tent, and the look on his face said that he wasn't going to be coming in for a dance. Actually, the look said he wasn't going to be anywhere near Hell on Wheels soon.
Lily hurried out of eyesight of the dance to the dark shadows created by other structures and tents in this haphazardly built hamlet. She was just peering through the darkness, hoping to make out a long, lean form when a voice whispered in her ear.
"What are you doing so far away from the festivities, oh 'Fair-haired Maiden of the West'?"
"Mr. Bohannon!" She whispered, whirling around to find him staring down at her. His gaze was unreadable. No smile softened his lips.
"Seriously, Mrs. Bell. What are you doing so far away from the party?"
"Well, looking for you, Mr. Bohannon." She had always found the direct route to be the best tactic, even if it did sometimes shock her companions. It did now.
"I saw you when I was dancing. You had that look."
"I have a look." Now, a smile was beginning to play around his mouth, but it didn't come close to his eyes.
She rolled her eyes at him, an act he was sure she had perfected on her late husband, Robert. "Of course, you do, Mr. Bohannon. And this one said that you were leaving."
He stared hard at her. He had snuck to the dance for one last glimpse of her. To silently say his farewells because he knew that explaining everything would be too hard. Too much - and the look on her face when she realized that he actually was a cold-blooded killer was something he hoped to never experience. He hadn't realized how important it was to him that she think highly of him, but now that realization hit him like a punch to the gut, and he was doing everything he could to keep her esteem of him as high as it possibly could be.
"Mrs. Bell..." he began, knowing now what he needed to say, but not sure how to begin.
"Lily. I'm sure we're past those kinds of formalities, don't you think?"
"Lily." It came out reverently. Like a prayer.
"I've seen the posters. Are you really what they say you are?"
Damn, but she was direct. He sighed deeply, resigned himself to her disappointment, and simply answered, "Yes."
"Did it help?" Shocked him again.
He hung his head. He didn't want to look her in the eye and tell her that no, it didn't. He still felt that need to avenge his late wife and his son, only now there was no one else left who deserved frontier-style justice. And now, now he didn't know what to do. Or who he was anymore.
The man they had loved was gone - killed alongside the very first man on whom he had exacted revenge.
Lily stepped closer and rested her hand on his cheek. Her thumb grazed the whiskers growing in his beard, and his breath caught. "Cullen," she whispered. He lifted his gaze to hers and stared deeply into her eyes. "Somewhere inside of you is the man that they loved. You may think he's gone forever, but I've seen him. I know him."
"No," he began to interrupt, to deny.
"NO." She was firmer than him. "He's right here." Her other hand rested on his heart. Her thumb grazed his jawline again, and this time he reached up and caught her hand, bringing it to his lips and kissed it.
"It doesn't make any difference, Lily. What I've done, I've done. It cain't be undone." He tried to pull back, but she stepped further into his space. "I have to go. The Swede contacted the Marshals, and..."
"I know," she whispered. "I know you have to run, and soon. And I need you to. I need you to run, because I need you to live. I need to know that somewhere, on this earth, you still are." Her voice broke on those last words.
Cullen sighed, and then cursed all good sense to Hell. He pulled her into his arms, slipped one hand under the hair at the nape of her neck, and held on. Tight. Her head fell to his shoulder, her breath light on his neck, and she wrapped both her arms around his waist and leaned in.
Breaths mingled. Heartbeats slowed, evened out, matched each other. Eyes drifted shut. The sounds of the celebration created a white noise that drowned out all others save Lily's gentle sigh and the rustle of clothing as Cullen pulled her closer.
She smelled of sunshine after the rain. Even out here, in the mud, grime, and sweat, she somehow smelled like everything good and right with the world. And, damn it all, he had to go.
Because if she was found with him, they would take her, too. For harboring a fugitive.
And that. That would be his final undoing.
Cullen pulled back and pressed a kiss to her forehead. "Lily," he whispered, desperately trying to find the strength to let go of her.
"Cullen," she whispered back. Smiled crookedly, and slid her hand around to rest on top of his heart again. "Don't forget." She tapped his chest twice. "You're in here."
He leaned in close, so close she could feel his lips move against hers as he spoke, "I hope you're right, Sweetheart. I really do." He closed the final millimeters and kissed her once. Twice. Angled his head, and took her lips in a deep, powerful kiss.
Lily clung to him as he opened his mouth over hers, tasting bad whiskey, tobacco, and Cullen. She sighed and reached up, one hand going around to play with his hair, the other resting on his jaw, her thumb caressing. The kiss lasted a second or a minute; time had lost all meaning.
"I have to go," he whispered when he finally ended the kiss.
"I know." She stroked his beard one more time, then slowly pulled out of his arms. "I won't tell you I'll miss you," she began.
"Not even for a minute," he smiled.
She smiled back, "Do try to stay out of trouble, Mr. Bohannon."
He leaned in one more time, kissed her temple and whispered, "I shall try, Ma'am."