Set Fire to the Rain 2

This fic is a sequel to the original Set Fire to the Rain. Jest in case you didn't figure that out fer yerself already. This fanfiction is intended for mature readers due to the vivid depiction of a consensual adult relationship. The setting is First Season, post-The Preacher. The locations/events in this fanfiction bear absolutely no resemblance to actual Kansas geographical features. Just roll with it.

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Chapter 1: Journey Resumed

Marshall Matt Dillon securely wrapped his long, protective arms around the soft, supple body seated in front of him on Buck's saddle. He leaned into Kitty Russell appreciatively and inhaled her scent—soap and sun-washed cotton and something purely female. But then he sighed and playfully pulled the cloth bonnet further over her slightly sunburnt face, resolving to behave himself for at least the next few hours until they made Cimarron.

Kitty Russell turned her head back awkwardly to peer at Matt from beneath Rosemary Wills' borrowed green cotton bonnet. She grinned at him as he brushed her pink nose with his finger and smiled, "Freckles."

"Don't you dare ever call me that in public, Matt Dillon."

"But you've got 'em everywhere, honey, even on your…"

"That's just about enough outta' you, Mister," she frowned, but her blue eyes sparkled mischievously up at him as he gently tugged the long, heavy, red braid that cascaded down her back.

Kitty leaned gratefully into Matt's reassuring broad chest and was suddenly overwhelmed at the thought of the transformation in their relationship over the past few days due to their shared life-altering experiences. They'd been through so much together—an unexpected inheritance from a long-lost uncle, a raging storm and horrific flood, Matt had been savagely beaten to a bruised pulp…and she'd killed a man.

Even though Sam Keeler had been a despicable specimen of a human being, and he was bent on killing Matt and maybe even Kitty herself, it still haunted her that she'd taken another man's life. Dreadful, frightening dreams of his bloodthirsty, snarling face hovering over Matt's battered form beneath an unrelenting downpour from the lightning-streaked, churning heavens plagued her slumber nightly. The inevitable gut-wrenching conclusion of her own finger infinitesimally pulling the dripping trigger of Matt's rifle to end Sam Keeler's existence on this earth would waken her violently. Matt would pull her close and hold her trembling body, murmuring comfortingly to her as she sobbed broken-heartedly. But with his strong arms cocooning her safely, she would finally drop off to sleep once more, exhausted but also secure in the knowledge that if she had not killed Keeler, Matt would not be alive and lying warm and breathing and whole in the bed next to her.

"How much farther do you think, Matt?" Kitty squeezed the big arms wrapped around her middle, and shivered to think how close she'd come to losing him that black night.

"Not too much longer till we get to Cimarron, Kitty, and your uncle's ranch is supposed to be a little farther upriver. I figure we'll settle in at the hotel and check in with your uncle's lawyer… What was his name?"

"Irving Hepley. He's the executor of the will. He probably has given up hope of ever seeing me. I was supposed to be there days ago."

Matt patted her arm. "I'm sure Cimarron got its share of floodwaters. I bet he'll understand." He pulled up on his horse's reins. "Let's take Buck down the bank here for a drink. My backside could sure use a rest, too."

He jumped down from the horse and grabbed Kitty by the waist, pulling her down so quickly that her stomach lurched and she let out a little squeak of surprise. Her bonnet slipped back off her head as she looked up at him and fussed, "Matt Dillon, you didn't have to go and…"

He shut her up with his full lips impatiently sealing over hers, kissing her long and slow and deep, until she was fairly breathless and woozy and had to hang onto his wide shoulders for support. Matt sure knew how to kiss a girl senseless. He made her positively weak in the knees.

He finally pulled away and said matter-of-factly, "I've been wantin' to do that all mornin'."

"Why, Matt Dillon, just this morning before we left the homestead, we..." She broke off, her cheeks turning pink, and it had nothing to do with the sun or her lost bonnet.

"What?" He looked at her expectantly, waiting for her to continue.

She pulled her braid over her shoulder and toyed with the end, one eyebrow creeping up, then finally said in exasperation, "Oh…you!"

He grabbed her and threw her over his shoulder while she squawked. "You know I can't ever get enough of you, honey." He led Buck by the reins down the steep bank of the river, carrying Kitty on his shoulder while she tossed out an occasional choice swear word under her breath. He thought he could make out the pointedly exasperated phrases, "…not a sack of potatoes" and "…damn well better not reinjure your innards" as he studiously ignored her threats, packing her unceremoniously through the squelchy mud.

He set her down safely on some big rocks by the side of the water beneath the washed-out embankment. Buck had sunk in past his ankles, but he was drinking happily in spite of it. Matt saw that the raging flood had clearly left its mark on the banks of the Arkansas River. But now that the flood waters were receding, all that was left was a giant, furrowed wall of mud, towering some thirty feet from where they stood.

Matt grinned at Kitty as he leaned over to refill his canteen in the cold water and handed it to her to drink first. She snatched it from his hands and shot him a mean look, but she couldn't keep the smile from twitching at the corners of her lips. Drinking deeply, she wiped her mouth on her sleeve and handed it back to Matt. She'd found her manners had taken an extreme back seat to other concerns out here on the prairie. Funny thing was, Matt didn't seem to mind in the least. Resting her chin in her hand, she asked thoughtfully, "How much do you think my uncle's ranch will be worth, Matt? Since the flood, I mean?"

Matt refilled his canteen again after drinking his fill and replaced the lid, hanging it back on Buck's saddle. "I don't know, Kitty. It's four hundred acres, according to what I read on the will." He walked back to face her and rested his hands on his narrow hips thoughtfully.

She added worriedly, "But Mr. Bodkin says land values are pretty low around these parts—just five dollars an acre, Matt…"

He interrupted, "But you've also got to consider the added value of the cattle… It's hard to tell. You'll just have to get it assessed before you sell it. That's the only way we'll know for sure."

Kitty's face was still anxious, and Matt stepped closer to put a hand on her cheek. "But don't worry, Kitty. About the money, I mean. I don't care how much, or how little, you get out of the sale of your uncle's ranch. If you don't raise enough to buy half-interest in the Long Branch from Bill Pence, we'll figure out something, I promise."

She gazed up at him, and the look in her eyes nearly broke Matt's heart. He urgently whispered, "No more of that old life for you. Ever again." He repeated, "We'll figure out something." Buck stopped his drinking to whinny and snort in Matt's direction. "See, Kitty, even Buck agrees with me."

Matt leaned over to kiss her, but Buck suddenly reared. Out of the corner of his eye, Matt caught sight of the nearby floodwater-saturated embankment collapsing, a wall of roiling mud surging toward them. He grabbed Kitty's hand and pulled her away, but the wave of mud rolled over them too quickly. The last thing he heard was Kitty's scream.

tbc

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