by Winnie


Chapter 2

Vin looked at the woman next to him and smiled in spite of his own discomfort. Jacqueline Maynard was not only beautiful, but she knew what she was doing and understood the dangers of the area, both natural and manmade. They’d left Rio two weeks after his arrival and now they were ensconced in the Pousada Vrajabhumi Hotel set high in the Rio De Janeiro mountains. They’d gone in under the guise of a newlywed couple searching for the perfect honeymoon adventure.
Their eyes met and again he found it hard to pull his gaze from the blue eyed blond beauty before him. Her hair was cut short and framed a tanned oval shaped face. Right now they were hiking through the higher mountains, through trails seldom used, yet they knew somewhere hidden deep in the darkest part of the forest was Hector Mendoza’s fortress. They’d risen early that morning and made sure their backpacks were ready for several days in the wilderness area. Between them they had one lightweight two man tent and sleeping bags, dehydrated fruits and vegetables, and a first aid kit. There were several packets of jerky and small packs of simple to prepare dried meals. They also carried two canteens of fresh water. They’d been walking along a wider trail, keeping to the shadows of the Inga trees and spiky-rooted palm trees and other trees that lined the treacherous terrain.
“Vin, someone’s coming,” Maynard warned and ducked into the thick undergrowth. She knelt down,. keeping out of sight as Tanner knelt beside her. The sound of several engines grew louder as they watched through the foliage.
“Could be some of Mendoza’s gorillas,” the tracker whispered and saw the blond head nod once.
“If it is at least we’ll know we’re moving in the right direction,” Maynard said, slapping at a mosquito that landed on her arm. The jeeps rounded the bend, overhanging leaves slapping against the sides as the driver maneuvered along the narrow trail. The second vehicle was an old army issue truck with the canvas sides lifted and the two watchers counted six men seated in the back, each one holding an AK47.
“They have ta be headed for Mendoza’s fortress,” Tanner said.
“Well they certainly aren’t out on a scenic pleasure trip,” Maynard agreed as a third vehicle came along. The canvas covering was down on the sides and they couldn’t see what was being carried up the winding slope.
“Jackie, if they are Mendoza’s men we need ta contact the DEA,” the tracker whispered as the final truck passed their position.
“Yeah, but let’s wait until we have confirmation first.”
“Ya don’t trust that snaky bastard any more than I do, do ya?” he asked of the man who headed the DEA in Rio De Janeiro.
“Richard Barker has been my boss for a year, Vin. I’ve been trying to figure out whether he’s on the take or legit, but haven’t found anything concrete yet. The bastard just keeps a step or two ahead of me and has the perfect explanation for everything.”
“Maybe we should contact the DEA office back home, let them know this guy may not be what he says he is,” Tanner said, standing and stretching once he was sure the caravan was out of earshot.
“I’ve been on my own down here so long I don’t even know who to contact anymore.”
“I could always contact Chris and have him speak with Coltrain,” Tanner suggested.
“You really trust this Chris guy?” Jackie asked, fixing her pack into a more comfortable position.
“With my life!”
“Good, because if we do contact him both our lives depend on that trust, but that’s a moot point right now. We need confirmation before we can do anything else and then we have to find a way to get to Mendoza so you can ID him. Then we have to get back to the hotel and see if we can get in touch with your friend, because I just don’t trust Barker as far as I can throw the sonofabitch. He’s dirty and I aim to get the evidence to prove it! You ready to move out?”
“Ready as I’ll ever be,” Tanner said, slapping at something that crawled along his neck. “Damn bugs are gettin’ bigger!”
“Get used to it, Tanner, you haven’t seen nothing yet,” Maynard laughed as they moved deeper along the trail.
JD smiled as he and Casey entered the teacup and put Adam between them. So far they’d done the pony rides, he carousel, and the Ferris wheel several times. The child’s energy was unbelievable as he raced ahead of them pointing to the ride he wanted to go on next.
“Alright, kiddo, hold onto your hat!” the Bostonian said as the ride started.
“But the man said I gots to hold onto the wheel, JD.” The boy frowned as he looked at the man seated on his right.
“Shoot, JD, I heard him too,” Casey said, grinning mischievously at her date. 
“Well, dang, guess we’d better do as the man says. Hold onto the wheel, Adam and spin it as fast as you can!”
“Hey, there’s Daddy and Mommy!” the boy screamed as the teacup began to spin faster.
They’d delivered the jars of preserves, the pies and cakes and the quilts to the right stands and would return in the evening to hear what the judges had to say. Once that was done the others returned to the picnic area to prepare lunch while Chris and Sarah searched for the wayward trio.
“There they are,” Sarah said, pointing to the Mad Hatter teacup ride. The boys spotted them, at the same time and she smiled as she heard his squeals of delight. 
“Sounds like they’re having fun,” Chris said, wrapping his left arm around his wife’s trim waist.
“Adam loves being around JD and Casey.”
“Probably because JD is still a kid at heart and loves the rides as much as Adam does.”
“And you don’t? Seems to me I recall a certain blond who loved to ride the coasters. Have you finally grown out of them?”
“Ah, Sarah, you know I love a good coaster. Too bad there’s none here...maybe we could take Adam to Disney World again. He’ll soon be big enough for those thrill rides!”
“Hmm, Disney World...maybe...”
“I think he’d love it.”
“I know you would,” Sarah said, smiling at her husband as the ride slowed down.
“What about you? Wouldn’t you enjoy going back there? Relive the adventures,” he said, waggling his eyebrows mischievously.
“Seems to me those adventures were the best and didn’t cost anything,” his wife blushed as she reminded him of their wonderful nights of lovemaking at the hotel they’d stayed in.
“Maybe we could convince JD and Casey to come along. Get them to take Adam on a few rides while you and I renew those memories,” the blond suggested, half serious. They walked to the exit gate and smiled as the trio came towards them.
“Did you see us? We went so fast!”
“You sure did, Sport. I thought you were gonna fly right off the saucer!” Larabee said as he took the boy’s right hand and Sarah took the left.
“Can we go see the animals now, Daddy?”
“Not yet, Adam. Everyone’s waiting for us to join them for lunch,” Sarah explained, smiling as she watched JD link his fingers with Casey. She was pleased her cousin and JD were hitting it off and knew from her talks with the younger woman that Casey would not allow herself to get serious until she was sure what she was doing. She’d been accepted to medical school and it would require all of her concentration to get through the hard years ahead, but at least she would have someone to lean on and confide in. It didn’t take them long to make it back to the picnic area and Adam raced ahead towards his great aunt.
“Aunt Nettie, I went on the big Ferris wheel!” The boy shouted as he plopped down beside the woman seated on one of the blankets.
“You did? My goodness I bet you could see your house from way up there!” The woman hugged her great nephew and reached for a juice in the cooler beside her. She placed a straw inside and handed it to the boy.
“Thanks, Aunt Nettie...I’s thirsty.”
“I was thirsty,” Nettie corrected automatically. Twenty five years as a teacher made old habits hard to break.
“I was thirsty,” Adam said, sipping from the straw.
“Are you hungry, young man?”
“Sure am, can I have ice cream?”
“Not yet. How about a ham and cheese sandwich?” the elderly woman asked.
“Okay...and some pickles.”
“Sure,” Nettie said as she watched her nephew in law bring over the tray of sandwiches and fresh fruit. He handed them both a blue plastic plate and several napkins.
“Now, Adam, what are you gonna have?” the blond asked.
“I wants...want ham and cheese,” the boy answered as he reach for a triangular sandwich.
“How about some fruit as well?” Nettie asked.
“Okay, some grapes and strawberries. I love grapes,” the boys explained as he took a nice sized bunch and placed them on his plate.
“Nettie?” Chris said holding the tray in front of her. She took a couple of sandwiches and several juicy strawberries and a slice of watermelon.
“Thank you, Chris.”
“You’re welcome. Just let me know when you’re ready for more!”
“We will,” the woman assured him, smiling as she watched the boy beside her. Her sister Sheila, Sarah’s mother had died several years before Chris and Sarah had married and had never had the pleasure of seeing her grandson. Hank Connelly was a vindictively cruel man and had forbidden his daughter from seeing Chris Larabee, but Sarah had a mind of her own and the will to stand up to her father. She’d even sent him an invitation to the wedding and asked him to give her away. It was sent back unopened and the man forbid her to ever enter his house again. The stubborn vengeful man refused to acknowledge that he had been gifted with a grandson and she detested him for dishonoring Sheila’s memory in such a way. She remembered the stormy meeting she had with him on the day Adam was born. How the drunken man raised his hand to her only to have her shove him hard enough that he landed with a resounding thump on the floor. She’d turned away from him and never looked back, refusing to call him or speak to him ever again.
‘Oh, Sheila, you would’ve loved Chris and Adam,’ she thought as tears came to her eyes.
“Aunt Nettie, is you hurt?” The boys voice broke through her thoughts and she smiled as she swiped at her eyes, before pulling him into a tight embrace.
“I’m fine, Adam, just an old lady’s silliness coming through,” she assured him.
“You’re not old, Aunt Nettie, you’s beautiful,” Adam said, eliciting a laugh from the older woman. “I love you, Boy.”
“I love you too,” Adam said, shoving a strawberry into his mouth.
The meal was over and the dishes washed and put away. Adam dozed on a blanket in the shade, while the adults planned out the afternoon’s activities. The men, excluding Orrin Travis had each chosen something they would all have to do and wagered on whether they would all go through with it. No one knew what those plans were yet, but they were about to be revealed.
“Alright, so who goes first?” Dunne asked.
“Well, Kid, since you brought it up why don’t you get us started?” Wilmington asked and knew by the look on JD’s face, and the giggle from Casey they were all in trouble. “What did you do, JD?”
“I signed us up for one of the competitions. We have to be there at 4 this afternoon.,” the Bostonian answered.
“Where?” Jackson asked, he was seated sideways at the picnic table, with Rain in front of him and his arms wrapped around her waist. They’d been seeing a lot of each other and seemed to have found a lot in common.
“Oh, Hell!” Larabee said. “JD, tell me you didn’t?”
“Didn’t what?” Standish asked.
JD grinned from ear to ear as he looked at each of his friends. “I hope you boys brought a change of clothes because me and Casey signed us up for the greased pig...”
“You didn’t!” Wilmington asked.
“Mr. Dunne, that was not very wise,” Standish said.
“Boys, you knew the rules when we started this. You either complete JD’s challenge or you forfeit any chance at winning the pot,” Larabee said of the 600 dollars sitting in the safe at the office.
“Mr. Larabee, you can’t be serious? You really don’t mean for us to chase and catch a greased pig?” Standish asked, looking down at his Armani designer blue jeans and shirt.
“No, I don’t,” Larabee said, smiling at the look of relief on the gambler’s face, knowing it would change once he finished his thoughts. “But JD is. So where does this event take place, Kid?”
“In the Arena and the winner gets fifty bucks,” Dunne answered.
“Oh the indignity,” the conman said disgustedly.
“What’s the matter, Ezra? Afraid of a little dirt and mud?” Sanchez asked.
“A little? I believe that is a definite understatement.”
“Maybe, but are we going to see you at the Arena at four?” Jackson asked.
“It appears I have no choice,” Standish said.
“Okay, so what did you choose, Ezra?” Sanchez asked.
“I chose the games of chance...”
“Ah, should’ve known. Okay where and when?” Wilmington asked.
“The Super Barn at three.”
“What kind of games are we talking about?” Dunne asked.
“Ah, a pie eating contest, what else?” Standish answered surprising them all.
“Pie eating?” the ladies’ man said with a grin. “I thought for sure it would involve gambling.”
“It could, care to make a small wager on who can eat the most between the six of us?”
“Nah, JD’s got that one in the bag...or should I say in the gut!” Wilmington said, slapping the younger man on the back.
“In that case just hand over the money!” Dunne said with a grin.
“Dream, on, Son, I’m saving my appetite as of right now!” Sanchez told them.
“Alright, Josiah, what did you sign us up for?” Jackson asked.
“Well, there’s a good old tug of war competition starting at noon in the Arena. Seems each team needs six members and since that’s what we have I figured it’s perfect. So far there are four teams signed up.
“Great,” Dunne said. “What about you, Nathan?” 
“Well, I took the liberty of signing us up for a scavenger hunt at six. That way the ladies can join us and I know how much Adam loves searching for things. It’s in the Montana Pavilion.”
“That sounds like one Evie and I would enjoy as well,” Travis said.
“I’m glad to hear it, Orrin, because I took the liberty of signing you both up. This will be teams of three, but they’ll make an exception and let Adam be part of your team Chris.”
“Sounds great,” Larabee said. “Well, I believe my sport should work out perfectly and takes place right after the tug of war competition.”
“What is it?” Dunne asked excitedly.
“The dunk tank being held at the Lake Stage!” the blond answered.
“The dunk tank’s great and it’ll save Ezra having to go change after the tug of war!” the young Bostonian said.
“Hey, that’s true, Wilmington said, smiling as he looked at the women seated around the table and on the blanket.
“Buck, what have you done?” Jackson asked, seeing the mischievous glint in the blue eyes.
“Well, Boys, I figured you wouldn’t mind since it’s for charity and all. I mean it’s not like these guys will have many takers anyway!”
“Buck! What did you do?” Sanchez inquired.
“I signed us up for the kissing booth!”
“Forget it Buck!” Larabee stated as he turned to see the smile on his wife’s face.
“Ah, hell, come on Chris. Besides, I already made sure it was okay with Sarah, Rain, and Casey. The money is for the children’s hospital and well, it’s all in fun and the ladies can always pay a small fee to get you all to themselves for the ten minutes you’re in the booth.”
“Chris, if you don’t do it you forfeit the 600 dollars,” Standish said, smiling as he saw the look on Larabee’s face.
“Chris, it’s okay, I trust you,” Sarah told her husband.
“Are you sure, Sarah. I mean...”
“It’s for charity,” his wife answered and leaned close to his ear. “Besides, I plan on paying for the rights to those lips for the full ten minutes.”
“Ah, hell, I’ll need a cold shower after that!” the blond said, kissing her and pulling her close.
“Okay, Boys, the kissing booth at the Montana Stage,” Wilmington said as he felt each man looking at him and knew they’d exact their revenge sooner or later.
“Well, it’s 11:30 so I guess we’d best head on over to the Arena and see if we can win this tug of war,” Sanchez said as Adam began to stir.
The first two tug of wars had ended with Larabee and Morgan’s teams winning easily. Now they faced off across the muddied hole in the center of the arena. Chris smiled as he took up position at the front of the rope. JD was directly behind him, followed by Ezra, Buck, Nathan and their anchor was Josiah. He gripped the rope tightly with his gloved hands and faced the man across from him. At six foot three, Tank Morgan should’ve been the anchor for his team, but the man’s arrogance made it mandatory for him to be the frontrunner. Behind him were several more of Morgan’s goons, Mike ‘Hammer’ Jones, Carl Jacques, and three the blond could not name.
“Well, Larabee, where’s Tex? Is he afraid to face us after the hockey game?” Morgan asked, waiting for the go ahead to start tugging on the rope.
“Vin’s never been afraid of you, Tank...seems to me we showed you that when the team beat you guys...”
“How the hell would you know? You were out for the count.”
“Yeah, and Vin had a broken wrist, JD was hurt and several others were down because they refused to play dirty like your team...”
“Your team was nothing...”
“Really, seems to me that my nothing team still won with half the team out of commission!” Larabee said, smiling as he felt his team get ready to set themselves as the countdown began.
Chris saw the look on Morgan’s face and tried to set himself for the man’s move, but was too late as his feet slipped in the mud and he landed on his knees in the muddied water. He heard the laughter from Morgan’s team and the angered words from his own men as the referee called Morgan for a false start. Larabee stood up, refusing to wipe the mud from his clothing as he returned to his position and gripped the rope once more.
“Alright, boys you know the rules. The team that pulls the pink ribbon across the line is the winner. Mr. Morgan...if you cause a false start again your team’s disqualified. Do I make myself clear? The grey haired man asked.
“Perfectly....sorry, Larabee...hope you weren’t hurt!”
“Not at all. Are you ready, Morgan?”
“Ready for what?” the big man asked.
“To wallow in the mud where you belong?” the blond asked as the referee began the countdown once more. Again he felt the others dig in at the same instant he planted his feet firmly onto the ground.
“Four...three...two...GO!” the referee called and shouts of excitement started around them. Both six man teams dug in and pulled against the opposing force. Morgan’s team began to pulled Larabee’s towards the mud, but Josiah dug in his heels and soon the tide turned as Morgan slipped closer to the edge.
“Get ‘em, Daddy!” Adam’s voice rose above the others and Chris smiled in spite of the tense muscles in his arms and legs. He could hear the others grunting with the effort it took to stay on their feet and he wondered how long they’d been fighting Morgan’s team. Time and again the balance of power changed as each team found that extra ounce of energy to pull a little harder. Chris saw the determination in Morgan’s eyes and knew the man wanted to beat him...and beat him bad. He smiled as Tanner’s voice sounded in his ears.
‘C’mon lets do this!’ With those words resounding through his skull, Chris Larabee found that added incentive to dig his heels in and pull with everything he had. As if he’d signaled his intent to the rest of his team he watched the ribbon slowly, but steadily come across the mud pool to The Firm’s side. He heard organ growling as the bigger man’s feet began to slide over the edge and down into the shallow pit. Grinning from ear to ear, Chris Larabee watched as the other team followed their leader into the mud, before he released the rope and turned to the cheering section behind him.
“Yeah!” Dunne shouted as Casey raced into his arms.
“Daddy did it! Daddy did it!” Adam shouted as Larabee knelt in front of him.
“Not just Daddy, Sport, all of us did it!” the blond corrected as he turned to watch Morgan’s disgruntled team crawling out of the mud. He couldn’t help laughing as the team leader fell on his butt before finally escaping the hole.
“No hard feelings, Tank!” the blond said as the bigger man hurried away, the rest of his dirtied team following behind him.
“I don’t think you made any points with him, Chris,” Orrin Travis said as he joined the team.
“No, but you know what, Orrin, I don’t think he’s worth the effort it would take,” Larabee answered, standing and stretching the kinks from his body. “Well done, Boys! I owe you all a drink for that one!”
“Sounds good, Brother, but I believe we have to get cleaned up first.”
“Ah, yes, the dunk tank awaits,” Standish said, brushing at the dust on his clothes. The group of friends accepted the coveted prize of brass medallions before making their way to the next event.
The trail continued to worsen the deeper into the mountains they went, but Vin and Jackie knew they couldn’t stop. Finding Mendoza’s compound and having Tanner ID him was top priority and took precedence over their own comfort. As darkness began to enfold them the air grew colder and they donned their lightweight jackets before continuing onwards. Several times they were forced to make a side trip through the trees as more traffic passed their position. They knew this had to be part of the drug cartel, but until they verified it there was nothing for them to do but continue along the trail.
“It’ll be full dark soon,” Maynard said as she eased up beside the Texan.
“Yeah, I know. Gettin’ kinda chilly too,” Tanner told her. 
“Could be we need to find some way to keep warm since we can’t afford a fire,” Jackie said, smiling at the man as they moved forward once more.
“Oh, I think we could come up with a few ideas,” the sharpshooter said, smiling at the warmth of the woman next to him.
“I’m sure we can,” the woman agreed. Again they continued in silence until the last of the light died out, leaving them with a cold darkness that harbored hidden dangers around each bend.
“Guess it’s time to make camp,” Tanner said, smiling as he pulled the woman towards him. Her blue eyes twinkled mischievously in the darkness and he found himself drowning in their depths.
“Vin...I...” he quickly put a stop to her words as his lips touched up against hers and the sparks ignited between them. He moaned softly as heat flooded his groin and his cock pressed against the tight jeans he wore.
Jackie moaned softly as she felt his manhood grow between them and knew she wanted this man worse than she’d ever wanted anything in her life. She returned his kiss, nipping at his bottom lip as her tongue slipped into his mouth. She knew their time would be short, but at least for now she could enjoy being with him and sharing the mutual attraction she felt.
“Vin...we n...need to get the te...tent set u...up...” she moaned as his hand reached up and caught her breast. Even the barrier of clothing could not dampen the heat from his hands as she tipped her head back and felt his mouth at her neck.
“T...tent can wait,” Tanner said.
“ cold...”
“Not cold at a...all...” the tracker said breathlessly.
“Not yet...b...but it wi...will be if we wa...want to get...”
“Naked,” the tracker laughed as he kissed her lips once more, before slipping the back pack off his shoulders.
‘God, I want you, Vin Tanner!’ Jackie thought as she watched the man open his pack and remove the equipment they’d need.
Sarah smiled as her son paid the money for three balls. They’d be used to hit the circle and hopefully drop her husband into the tank. So far Casey had managed to dunk JD Dunne three times and they’d all been laughing ever since. Their were five dunk tanks located on the lake stage and each one now held a member of The Firm. JD had been first in line while the others waited for the four tanks to empty. Dunne was now standing on the sidelines, a towel in his hands as he watched the others being loaded into the tanks.
“You get him, Adam!” the Bostonian shouted as Larabee signaled he was ready.
“I’m gonna get daddy wet!” the boy shouted as he lifted the first ball. He threw it as hard as he could, missing the circular lever by less than an inch.
“Hey, Sport, thought you were gonna dunk me?” Larabee asked as his son laughed and picked up the second ball.
“Looks like he’s got you in his sights, Chris!” Wilmington said from his seat in the next tank.
“Now, Adam, you don’t want to...Shi...oot!” the blond said as the ball struck the lever and the seat disappeared beneath him.
“I did it! I did it! Mommy! Mommy! Did you see what I did?” the child asked, excitedly jumping up and down.
“I sure did, Adam and guess what? You’ve still got one more ball!”
“I do?”
“Yes you do,” Sarah smiled in Larabee’s direction as the blond shook his head and laughed.
“I want you to take my turn!”
“You do?”
“’s fun, Mommy and Daddy’s still dirty.”
“You’re right he is. Alright, Adam. Mommy’s gonna have some fun,” the woman said, grinning as she picked up the ball.
“Uhoh, ol’ son, looks like Sarah’s gonna give you a bath in public,” the ladies man laughed.
“Sarah, nah, she couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn if she was standing two inches in front of it!” Larabee mumbled softly.
“I heard that, Chris!” his wife called as she threw the ball at the circle, smiling as her husband was deposited back in the water once more. He came up sputtering and swiping at the water as the seat was fixed into position once more. He looked to his left and smiled as a pretty Mexican woman stood in front of Wilmington’s tank.
Nettie Wells smiled at the gambler sitting in the end tank as she paid for three balls. She tossed the first, missing the lever even as she reached for the second one. This time the ball sailed wide and Ezra decided he would tease her a little.
“Mrs. Wells, I believe they are setting up a practice booth over by the Super Barn!”
“Already had my practice, son. Now we just split the difference!” She smiled as she lifted the final ball and true to her word hit the target dead center. “Yep, always glad they give me three chances, because I need to hone in on my mark.
“Well done, Aunt Nettie,” Sarah laughed as the sputtering conman eased up onto the reset seat.
“Well, hello, darlin’. What’s your name?” the rogue asked as she picked up the first ball.
“The name’s Inez, Buck, and I believe you’re all water under the ears,” she said as she threw the first ball and Wilmington disappeared into the water.
“Looks like she’s got your number, Stud!” the blond laughed as Rain stepped in front of Jackson.
“Hang on, Brother, I think she means to cool you off!” Sanchez laughed as the exotic beauty lifted the ball and threw it, making contact with the circle and dunking the man into the water. The laughter grew as a woman from Josiah’s church paid for the honor of dunking him.
“Now, Myra, remember all those repairs...” he stopped as the first ball missed and the woman quickly grabbed another. This one sailed a little high and the five men cheered that their friend had escaped the drink so far, but the look of determination on the woman’s face told them Sanchez was in trouble. The third ball missed again, but the woman did not give up. Reaching into her pocket she pulled out a five dollar bill and smiled as a small basket full of balls were placed in front of her.
“Uhoh, Josiah’s in trouble now,” Wilmington laughed as Rain quickly dunked Jackson again.
“Nah, Myra’s never been able to hit...” Sanchez sputtered as he dropped into the water.
“What was that, Josiah?” Dunne laughed as he watched the woman move to the next tank. Without a word she took a ball from the basket and tossed it at the lever, dropping the ladies man into the chilly water.
“Damn!” the ladies’ man cursed softly, laughing in spite of the dousing he took. He watched as the auburn haired woman smiled and moved to Larabee’s tank as Nathan was dunked once more by his date.
Myra moved on to Standish’ tank and the gambler resigned himself to getting dumped once more. He held his breath as the woman hefted the ball and hit the target dead on.
Sarah watched as the woman moved down the line, lifted another ball and threw it towards her husband’s tank, successfully dropping the blond into the water.
“Josiah, I think we’ve got a ringer!” the rogue said as the woman moved towards Jackson’s tank. Myra had drawn a large crowd and they cheered her on as ball after ball met with success and five men finally exited the tanks, water dripping from their saturated clothing and hair. They shook hands with the laughing woman from Josiah’s church as they accepted a towel from the woman.
“Kissing booth’s next. Are you interested, Darlin?” the ladies man asked, briskly rubbing his hands together as he looked towards the dark haired woman.
“In your dreams,” Inez said as she turned and hurried away.
“Looks like you’re losing your touch, Stud!” Larabee grinned as he wrapped his wife in his wet arms.
“You’re cold!” Sarah cried, but relaxed against her husband as they walked towards the next event.
“Mommy, can I have ice cream?”
“Sure, Adam. Chris, we’ll see you there in a few minutes.”
“Okay,” the blond said, releasing the woman to his son.
“And, Chris, don’t start puckering those lips without me!” she added before disappearing around the Lake Stage.
Vin watched as the beauty before him slowly took her clothes off. The tent was hidden amongst a heavy strand of deadwood and impossible to see except from the air. They’d lit one of the flashlights and were using it to see by. Tanner smiled as she finished sliding her panties down her legs before she slipped into the double sleeping bag.
“Your turn, Lover boy,” Jackie said, watching as the lithe tracker stood up and peeled away the nylon windbreaker he wore. Next came the white t-shirt and she sighed as he peeled it up over his chest and shoulders, before pulling it completely free of his body. She admired the biceps and lean chest as she rested her head on her hand.
“Not bad, Tanner,” she whispered seductively as the Texan slid the jeans down his legs.
“Not bad?” the sharpshooter asked, frowning as he watched the grin come over her face.
“Okay, how about, nice buns?” she stated.
“Thanks...I think,” the tracker said, reaching for the briefs and sliding them off next, his manhood springing to attention in the chilly air.
“Very nice, I think maybe I should stand up and salute. Do they build all you Texas boys like this?” she asked coyly.
“No, Ma’am, I’m one of a kind!” the sharpshooter grinned as he finished undressing and slid down beside her. “Damn, it’s cold!”
“Sure is, but there’s one wickedly fun way to warm up,” Maynard said, sliding her cold hands along his chest as he covered them both with the sleeping bag. She laughed as he pulled her tight against him, and sliding his hand down her body until he reached the triangular mass of curls nestled between her legs.
Vin smiled as he spotted a birthmark on her left arm and was suddenly reminded of a map he’d seen just before leaving on this trip. Lifting his head he smiled at the woman beside him as she tried to move her hands lower.
“Vin, what’s...”
“Waltzing Matilda...”
“Tanner! what the hell...”
“Waltzing Matilda...”
“...are you doing?”
“Ya’ll come a waltzing...”
“Jesus, they may...”
“Matilda with me...”
“...grow you boys big in Texas...
“...and he sang...”
“...but they sure didn’t teach...”
“ he watched...”
“ to sing...ah shit!” she cursed as she realized what Tanner was looking at. Her hand quickly coming to rest over his mouth as she tried to stop him.
“...and waited ‘til his billy boiled...”
“Tanner, if you finish that verse I’ll make you sleep in your own damn tent! Got it?” she vowed, watching the other man’s twinkling eyes.
“Ah, hell, it’s yer fault ya know? Ya wanted to salute Texas, how the hell could  not show my appreciation for Australia. Ya do know it’s right there plain’s day?”
“Yeah, yeah. I know all about it. Why the hell I ever got blessed with a birthmark shaped like down under I’ll never know!”
“Hey, ain’t nothin’ wrong with Australia. Knew a slick chick from there once named Anita....she just had one flaw and it was a biggie...she hated black jelly beans!”
“Well, Texas, if you want to go any further here you’d best stop talking about other chicks! Understood?”
“Yep, sure is.” The sharpshooter looked into the blue eyes and grew silent once more. He lowered his lips to hers and again felt the heat race through his body and the almost instant awakening of his need. He slid his hand down her body as he removed his mouth from hers and quickly suckled one taut nipple. He heard her moan and continued to lavish attention on her as he felt her shift position until she could grasp his cock in her hand. Slowly, her fingers ran the length of him, before coming to rest against his heavy balls.
Jackie cried out as his fingers slipped into her moistened opening, rubbing against the nub and sending shivers of pleasure coursing through her body. She lifted her hips, pressing against the intrusion, wanting and needing to feel more of this gorgeous man who shared her sleeping bag.
“Vin...I...I want you,” she whispered as she felt his fingers removed and he released her nipple to kiss her once more.
“Are you sure?” he asked in a husky voice.
“Y...yes...never been more sure of anything in my life,” she whispered as he reached for her and finally climbed on top of her. Their eyes locked as she opened her legs to accept him and relaxed as the scent of him made her feel heady. “Please, Vin, I need you inside me now!”
Vin smiled as he maneuvered his body until his cock touched up against the beaconing velvety sheath. He slowly entered her, smiling as she moaned with pleasure and fought to bring him further inside. He sank into her, filling her and relishing in the warmth surrounding him as he slowly began to move against her. Her hips began to push up against him each time he withdrew, sending ripples of pleasure through their bodies as the fevered pitch grew to a resounding crescendo. Over and over, the Texan entered her body, bringing them closer and closer to the point of no return. The silence out side the tent was suddenly shattered with the sounds of their lovemaking and the heavy breathing as the couple completed their lovemaking and lay against each other. Sated, and weary, Vin pulled his softening cock from her and lay back against the ground. Without a word he pulled her to him, content to sleep with her spooned up against him and unaware of the freight train of trouble headed towards his best friend.
Rain smiled as she watched the women flocking to the booth housing the ladies man. Wilmington was in his glory as time and again a woman paid the price for a single kiss from the rogue’s lips.
“Hey, I’m here.”
Rain laughed as she turned her attention to her date and smiled at the handsome man. “Hmm, sorry, but it seems Buck has quite the following.”
“He always does,” Jackson said, awed at how easily Wilmington attracted the ladies. “Now , I think you’ve paid money to indulge in a kiss.”
“Why, yes, Mr. Jackson and I believe I would like to make the most of the price I paid,” she said, leaning closer until their mouth locked in a sweet tasting kiss.
Sarah stood next to the booth housing her husband and smiled as she handed the man a twenty dollar bill. She watched as he reached into his pouch to give her change. “That’s alright, son, I’ve paid for Mr. Larabee’s time in the kissing booth.”
“Shoot, Ma’am, okay,” the young man said, shaking his head as he passed Larabee’s “Sorry, Man, looks like the lady’s got you for the next ten minutes!”
“Don’t be sorry, Kid, there’s no one I’d rather play tonsil hockey with,” the blond said as his wife smiled lovingly at him. “Come here shweetheart,” he deadpanned in his best Bogart imitation.
“I don’t know about that, Sailor. Folks’ll talk,” Sarah said, smiling as she stood before the man she loved.
“Let ‘em. I’ve been bought and paid for by the most gorgeous woman ever ta grace the fair and I aim to see that she gets her money’s worth and then some,” Larabee said as he swept her into his arms. He kissed her, long and hard until a small hand tugged at his shirt.
“Daddy! Daddy!”
Larabee reluctantly released his wife and turned to his son. “Well, Sport, what’s wrong?”
“Nothin’...I just wanted a group hug,” the boy said, laughing as his father scooped him into his arms and the trio hugged.
“Looks like Casey had the same idea when it comes to JD,” Larabee said as the young med school student remained at the front of the line to Dunne’s booth.
“Hmm, Rain too and it looks like Myra wants to make up for soaking Josiah,” Sarah laughed as the auburn haired woman made it to the front of the line.
“Yeah, but I believe Buck’s got some healthy competition,” Larabee smiled as he looked at the line for Standish and Wilmington’s booth.
“Ezra certainly attracts some sophisticated ladies,” Sarah smiled as the enigmatic gambler show his romantic side and kissed each of the women lined up, before graciously placing an extra kiss on their hands. She heard several of the ladies giggle before they moved to the back of the line once more.
Vin heard a soft laugh from the woman in his arms and lifted his head as she pushed her warm ass against his penis. “What’s funny?”
“Did you really date an Australian who hated black jelly beans?”
“Sure did, couldn’t get her ta try ‘em let alone eat ‘em.”
“Is she the one who taught you waltzing Matilda?”
“Yep, sang it while in the outback. I’s a Top Gun Navy Pilot at the time. She loved to ride a Harley and well, we had a few good rides,” Tanner said as he felt her turn towards him.
“Did you make love to her?”
“Sorry, ma’am, ma never raised no blabbermouth and I ain’t gonna get myself in trouble by talkin’ about another woman while I’m holding the pride of the DEA in my arms.”
“”Hmm, flattery will get you everywhere, Texas,” Jackie said as she wrapped her arms around his neck and placed her mouth against his throat, nipping at him as she felt him growing hard once more.
“Shit, Jackie, you keep that up and we ain’t gettin’ any sleep tonight!” Tanner groaned.
“Looks like Texas is about to rise again,” Maynard grinned as she continued to lavish attention on the man snuggled against him.
Chris patted his stomach and groaned as another pie was placed in front of him. Shaking his head in defeat he pushed the plate away from him and stood up to join the other two drop outs.
“Well, Mr. Larabee an admirable showing indeed,” Standish said as he settled back with the other spectators.
“Think the kid’s got enough room to put away one more?” Wilmington asked.
“Hell, Buck, JD can put away more than anyone I’ve ever seen except...”
“Vin,” Wilmington finished softly. Although the younger man hadn’t been mentioned through the day, it didn’t mean he was far from their minds.
“Yeah, think maybe they’d have to bring in another truckload to fill those two up.”
“Mr. Jackson is looking decidedly green,” Standish said as Nathan groaned before standing up and joining them on the sidelines.
“I hope someone brought some antacid with them,” the medic stated as his stomach protested the extra food.
“I think you’ll need more than antacid, Nathan,” Rain laughed as she held tight to her date’s arm.
They continued to watch as two more contestants dropped out leaving JD, Josiah and one other man. The trio sat back and watched as new pies were set before them. The only one who still seemed to have any excitement left was the young easterner and JD smiled as Josiah shook his head and stood up.
“Looks like it me and you, Kid. Think you can take me?”
“I’m gonna give it a damn good try,” Dunne said as he lifted the fork and began to eat the cream pie before him.
“Go JD!” Casey and Adam called at the same time. The others quickly took up the chant and a resounding chorus of ‘Go JD!’ surrounded the onlookers.
JD concentrated on eating the pie in front of him, but looked up as the man seated across from him groaned and clutched his stomach. He knew what was coming and shifted further down as his opponent lost the contents of his stomach. Ignoring the sounds and smell the Bostonian continued to eat until the judge declared him the winner and champion pie eater.
“Always figured the kid’s got an iron stomach,” Sanchez said, shaking his head as the easterner was surrounded by the other contestants as he accepted the winning medallion.
“Yeah, JD, you did won!” Adam laughed as the dark haired man knelt in front of him. He jumped up and down as JD placed his winning medal over his neck.
“You keep that safe for me okay?”
“Sure, JD, won’t let nothin’ happen to it!” Adam Larabee said as he hurried to show his parents.
In the mountains high above the sleeping city of Rio De Janeiro the sated couple slept, oblivious to the danger lurking in the trees and along the overgrown trail they’d been following. Hector Mendoza was not a man to let security relax and even now his men patrolled deep into the forest surrounding his fortress. His men would not let anyone within five miles of the property, not after seeing what happened to those who betrayed the drug lord. They widened their search parameters, knowing it was better to be safe than sorry.
The Arena was ready for them, but the six men standing in the center were not so sure they were ready for the Arena. The members of The firm were not the only souls foolhardy enough to attempt this perilous undertaking as a total of fourteen men stood around waiting for the pig to be released. Sarah, Adam and the rest of the group stood on the sidelines watching as the contestants readied themselves for the challenge.
“Are you sure you’re ready for this, Pard?” Wilmington asked.
“Not even close,” Larabee answered as the sound of the squealing pig reached their ears.
“Okay, gentlemen, as you know the object of this little contest is to be the one man who can catch and hold onto a little piggy. Now what’s so hard about that you might ask? Well, this little piggy went to the market and got himself good and greased up and he’s just not in the mood to be hugged by a bunch of lugs like you boys. Henry, let that little beastie out and see what these strappin’ lads can do about catchin’ themselves a ham hock or two!”
“Here ya go, Boys. Good luck and dry hands to all of ya!”
JD was closest to the pig and made a grab for it, his hands slipping off the swine’s rump as he landed face down in the mud.
“Nice one, JD! Casey yelled, laughing as the young man stood up and rejoined the group chasing the small pig.
“Get him, Nathan!” Rain shouted as Jackson and another man tried to corner the pig only to lose their grips and bang into each other. The crowd roared their approval as the two men regained their feet and joined the foray once more.
“I got him! I got him!” Wilmington shouted, diving for the terrified pig as it darted past three men.
“Yep, you sure do, Buck!” Larabee said as he helped the rogue to his feet and the duo laughed as they rejoined the quest for the prized pig. The men raced around the Arena to cheers and jeers from the spectators on the sidelines. Several times someone grabbed up the small swine, only to have it slip through their fingers and race through several pairs of legs.
Josiah blew out a disgusted breath of air as he made his first attempt at capturing the elusive swine. He stumbled along, staying on his feet for several seconds until another contest struck him from the side. He rolled in the wet earth, coming to rest on his knees and laughing as the medic offered him a hand up.
“Anytime...looks like Chris has a bead on him!” Jackson said, laughing as a trio of men slipped in the thickening mire on the playing field.
“Catch him, Daddy!” Adam shouted as his father darted towards the squirming pig.
“Watch out, Chris!” Sarah shouted as Larabee was sandwiched between two men and sank to the ground. She smiled in relief as the blond waved to her, his face, arms and clothing covered in mud.
“Hey, lo...looks like Ez m...might just g...get him !” Sanchez said breathlessly as the conman reached for the squealing object racing towards him.
Ezra knew the pig was his, all he had to do was pluck him off the ground and hold him for a second or two. He grabbed the squealing pig and lifted him into his arms, trapping him against his body as the announcer’s voice reached his ears.
“Looks like we got us a real pig wrassler! We got a winner! Watch out!”
Ezra smiled and bowed as he released the pig, but the warnings came too late as he tried to turn around and found himself flying through the air as two men tackled him. He laid on the ground, his face embedded in the mud, his arms straight out and his Armani denims covered in muck. He lifted his face and heard laughter from the spectators as his mud covered face gazed around the Arena.
“Ezra, are you okay?” Jackson asked as he knelt beside the gambler.
“I don’t think so! I believe I’ve been rear ended!”
“You could say that, Ez, but at least ya won. Them two ol’ boys are takin’ a verbal reprimand from the judges and I’m bettin’ they’ll be apologizing to you as soon as the man’s finished talking their ears off!” Wilmington stated as Larabee, Dunne and Sanchez joined them.
“Hey, Ez,” Dunne said as the conman managed to turn over and sit up. “Thought I was the only one who could fly. Damn, but I swear you flew five feet in the air.”
“I see nothing jocular in my unwarranted and unasked for flight!” the gambler blustered as the judges and two dirt covered men made their way towards him.
“Now these fellers got something they need to say to you,” the grizzled announcer said. No one noticed JD slip away from the crowd, a mischievous glint in his eyes.
‘We’s sorry, mister. My brother and me just got caught up in the excitement,” the shorter of the two hillbilly types said as he extended his hand.
“Are ya okay, Mister?” the second man asked.
“Yes, I suppose I’m satisfactory after such an appalling impact on my person,” Standish answered.
“Says he’s fine,” Sanchez explained.
“ sure?” the first man asked.
“Yep, now if he was speaking normal like then we’d be worried,” Wilmington explained.
“Alright, gentlemen, I believe this young man has won the right to his prize,” the judge said.
“Prize?” Standish asked, suddenly interested.
“Of course. Henry, would you bring,” what’s your name, Son?” the announcer asked as he held the mic in front of Standish’ face.
“Ezra...Ezra Standish.”
“Henry, bring Ezra, Ezra Standish his prize!” This garnered more laughter from the audience as the crowd parted and a velvet covered box was wheeled in front of the gambler.
Ezra smiled as he looked at the elegant covering and moved closer. He jumped back as a loud snort escaped from under the covers and glanced at the men surrounding him.
“What is that?” he asked.
“It’s your prize!” the announcer said, grabbing the top of the red material and yanking it off to reveal the same pig he’d captured moments before.
“I cannot accept this.”
“You don’t have a choice. Ya won him fair and square!” the judge said.
“Hey, Ez, will your building let you have pets?” Wilmington asked.
“I know a great name fro him, Brother. You could call him Arnold just like the folks in Green Acres!” Sanchez suggested, eliciting more laughter from the gathered crowd.
“I see nothing humorous in any of this, Gentlemen!” Standish blustered.
“Ezra’s got a piggy, Mommy.”
“Yes, he sure does,” Sarah, hid her laughter behind her hands as the gambler circled the small crate.
“I cannot accept this prize...”
“Well, you need to come up with someone to take him. He’s all yours,” the announcer said as he turned to walk away and the young Bostonian rejoined the group.
“You can’t be serious?” Standish asked as he saw a twinkle in JD’s eyes. “Mr. Dunne, I fail to see anything funny in this situation.”
“Gotcha!” Dunne said, laughing as the announcer and judges turned back towards them and joined the laughter.
“JD?” Wilmington asked.
“Sorry, Ez, but I couldn’t resist. I wanted to see your face when they showed you your prize! You should’ve seen it! I mean you were downright...”
“Stunned!” the ladies man finished.
“ name it...Ezra’s face shone with it,” the Bostonian finished.
“Mr. Dunne, I owe you big time,” Standish said as he looked at his ruined clothing. “And you will receive my cleaning bill!”
“It’d be worth it, Ezra,” the kid said as the group finally broke up.
“Chris, why don’t you get cleaned up and meet me back at the picnic area. Adam’s hungry and we don’t have much time before the scavenger hunt begins,” Sarah suggested.
“Alright, actually it might be a good idea if we all went down to the barns and hosed ourselves down. Sarah?”
“Can you bring me my change of clothes?”
“Sure, I’ll meet you there in fifteen minutes.”
“Sounds good. Alright, Boys, let’s go get this sh...stuff cleaned off,” the blond said as he led the way towards the watershed used for the horses.
“This place is full of potential marks, my dear.”
“I told you, Jack. I knew there would be plenty of opportunity for a man with your expertise,” the raven haired beauty smiled as she spun the parasol above her head and her handsome escort linked his arm with hers.
“You know, Ella, we do make a great team. Maybe it’s time we...Ella, what’s wrong? You look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Jack Averil said as he saw the frown on the woman’s face.
“Not a husband!” Ella said as she watched a blond haired man shrug out of his shirt.
“Husband!” Averil spat in disbelief. “You’re not married!”
“Not yet,” the woman said, licking her lips hungrily. “But I will be as soon as I renew an old acquaintance.”
“What are you talking about?”
“That man over there. The blond...the one with the shirt off and stepping under the water...” she said, a dreamy quality to her voice.
“What about him?” Handsome Jack asked.
“His name is Chris Larabee and he and I are to be wed.”
“Does he know?” Averil laughed at his own joke.
“Not yet,” Ella answered, pulling her arm from his.
“You boys go on, I’ll catch up with you as soon as Sarah bring me a change of clothes,” Larabee said, letting the water run down his sweat soaked body.
“Alright, we’ll see you back at the rest area,” Wilmington told his friend as he joined the others and hurried back towards the picnic grounds.
Chris raised his head, smiling as he lifted the hose and let the water wash over him. He heard footsteps coming towards him, but didn’t look up as the water cooled his heated flesh.
“Well, you’re still the handsomest blond I ever laid eyes on!” Ella said, smiling as Larabee turned towards her, a look of surprise on his face.
“Ella?” the blond asked in disbelief.
Sarah smiled as she passed the five men hurrying towards the picnic area. She knew Nettie, Rain, and Casey had sandwiches waiting for them and was grateful for the few minutes she’d be alone with her husband. As she round the end of the horse’s barn she scowled as a woman hurried towards her husband.
“It’s been so long, Chris,” Ella laughed as she hurried to him and wrapped her arms around his neck, pulling the shocked head down and planting her lips on his.
The shock of her lips touching his sent shivers down his spine and he reached for his arms as his wife stormed towards them. Ella’s hands were locked behind his neck and Chris had to use more strength than he wanted to remove them and knew he was probably leaving marks on her wrists. By the time he pushed her away his wife had reached them and placed herself between them. Hands on her hips, face dark with jealousy, Sarah Larabee looked the picture of the wronged woman.
“Chris, who is this?” Ella asked as she tried to move closer to the blond.
“A better question would be who the hell are you and why were you kissing my husband?” Sarah asked, ire shining in her eyes.
“Husband? Chris? You can’t be serious? You married this...this...”
“I married the woman I love, Ella!”
“ and I...”
“You and me ended years ago, Ella. I told you then I could not keep up with the lifestyle you wanted,” Larabee said as he pulled his wife into his arms and held her close.
“We were going to be married,” Ella whispered, keeping the anger from her voice as she smiled at the handsome blond.
“No, Ella, you wanted to get married, but I wasn’t ready.” Chris said as he felt his wife grow tense in his arms. He knew Sarah’s fiery temper was in danger of exploding and hoped to douse the fire before it inflamed them all. He saw a dark haired stranger watching the scene unfold and wondered if the man was an acquaintance of Ella Gaines.
“We loved each other...”
“No, we loved the excitement and adventures we had, but not each other. If we had loved each other we wouldn’t have said goodbye that day,” Larabee said, with no hint of regret in his voice.
“Ella, I’m sorry, but what you and I had is over. It ended the day I met Sarah and I’ve had more excitement and adventures with her than you can imagine. I love Sarah, with every breath I take I fall more and more in love with her.”
“I love you too, Chris,” Sarah said, locking eyes with the woman standing before them.
“So this is what you want in your life?” the raven haired woman asked softly, hatred boiling just below the surface.
“Yes,” the blond answered simply.
“Then I wish you both a long and happy life together. My name is Ella Gaines Larabee...oh, I’m sorry...I mean it’s Ella Gaines. I always hoped Larabee would be added.”
“My name is Sarah Connelly Larabee...and that...” Sarah smiled innocently as she held her husband against her. “ my name, not some wished for delusion.”
“I apologize for my actions, Chris. I truly didn’t know. Perhaps we will see each other again,” Gaines said as she took one last look at the couple before turning away. She hurried over to Jack Averil, her face red with anger as her chest heaved against her tight blouse.
“I take it Larabee wasn’t pleased to see you,” handsome Jack said as the woman glanced over her shoulder before taking his arm.
“That bitch thinks she has him, but no one messes with my property. Call Guy Royal and Robert Spikes, tell them I may be in need of their help! Take me back to the hotel, Jack. I feel like celebrating tonight since it marks the final days in the life of Sarah Connelly...Larabee,” she finished as they hurried off.
Chris and Sarah watched as Ella Gaines hurried to meet the man who was watching the scene unfold. Neither missed the look she sent over her shoulder and Sarah held her husband possessively.
“That’s the woman you told me about? The one who liked living on the edge?”
“Yeah, never dreamed I’d run into her again. Her tastes run too rich for places like this. I’m sorry, Honey, she kissed me before I knew what was happening,” Larabee apologized as his wife turned around and looked into his eyes.
“Chris, I trust you...with everything I am and everything I own I know you would never do anything to hurt me or Adam.”
“Never. I vowed on our wedding day never to make you cry and I won’t, Sarah. What I had with Ella Gaines ended years ago and I thank God every day that it did. If it hadn’t I never would’ve found my soul mate and known what real love meant.”
“I know, and I feel the same way,” Sarah said as the couple they’d been watching disappeared. She turned once more to her husband and smiled as she ran her fingers through his wet hair. “I think we’d better get you into some dry clothes and get back to the others. They’re probably wondering what happened to us.”
“Knowing Buck he’s probably told them we snuck off for a little quality time,” Larabee said with a grin, the dark haired woman forgotten as he looked into the depths of his wife’s eyes.
“I wouldn’t doubt it, come on, Larabee, cover that chest before I do something that’ll really make us late!”
“Ah, Hell, Sarah, I don’t mind being late,” the blond said, the grin widening on his face.
“Maybe not, but those people over there would probably be shocked,” Sarah said as a family of four walked towards them.
“Damn, okay, why don’t we take this up when we get home tonight?”
“Sounds like a plan to me, but...”
“Are you gonna have enough energy left for that, Lover boy?”
“Hooyah! What about you, Mrs. Larabee? Think you can spare a little energy for your husband?”
“I’ll give him everything I have,” she vowed as she helped him into his shirt, frowning as she saw the bruises on his arms. “What happened here?”
Chris looked at the bruises shrugging his shoulders as he finally got his shirt on. “Probably happened when those two ploughed into me.”
“Are you okay?”
“I’m fine, Sarah,” he said wrapping his arms around her once more. “I haven’t had this much fun in a long, long time...but”
“What?” she asked worriedly.
“Wouldn’t mind one of your special rubs tonight.”
“I’ll see if I’ve got a spot open,” Sarah laughed as he buttoned his shirt, leaving the top two open to reveal the lean chest she loved to touch.
“Well, am I decent enough?”
“You’ll do,” Sarah said, laughing as her husband chased her towards the picnic area.
Richard Barker knew things were getting hot and would continue to do so unless he did something about Jacqueline Maynard. Since coming to Rio a year ago the woman seemed to have set her sight on seeing him taken down. Everything had been going so well until she’d walked in on a meeting he was having with a well known drug lord. He’d easily explained it, saying the man was exchanging information with him, but Maynard remained dubious even after the drug lord died. He knew she was watching him, but could not figure out exactly what she was up to. Now she was somewhere north of the city, high in the mountains overlooking the Rio De Janeiro Bay with a man who could easily end the tidy nest egg he had going here.
Barker picked up the phone and quickly dialed a number that would automatically be rerouted to Mendoza’s fortress. He had to warn him, or he was a dead man because Mendoza would make sure he paid dearly for not keeping his word. Again he was met with a busy signal and slammed the receiver back in the cradle. With shaking hands Barker reached for the brandy decanter and quickly filled his glass. He tipped it to his lips and waited for the fiery liquid to calm his nerves. He’d never seen Mendoza face to face, had no idea what the man looked like. The drug lord was extremely careful and made sure no one could put a face to his name, for all he knew the name could even be false. He reached for the phone again and dialed the number, breathing a sigh of relief when it went through the circuit and was answered by Mendoza’s man.
“I need to speak with Hector!”
“He’s busy in a meeting right now! Is there a message?”
“Who is this. Ernesto, is that you?” Barker asked, frantic that his message get through.
“That’s right, who is this?”
“Richard Barker. Tell Hector it’s imperative that I speak with him.”
“Hang on and I’ll see if he has time to speak with you!”
Richard drummed his fingers on the desk, reached for the bottle of brandy and poured himself another shot. He swallowed this one and again drummed his fingers nervously as he waited for Mendoza to come to the phone. He looked at the digital clock as the seconds ticked off one by one, until a full five minutes had come and gone.
“Come on, dammit!”
“Is that anyway to speak to the man who pays your bills, Richard?”
“Hector! Thank God, we have a problem...two of them actually!”
“What sort of problem?” Mendoza asked, his voice now serious as he sat behind his desk.
“Remember that bitch I told you about?”
“You’ve told me about quite a lot of bitches, Richard. Which one is this?”
“Her name is Jacqueline Maynard and she was sent here to bring down the cartel about a year ago.”
“Ah, yes, the lovely blond with the perfect long legs. What has she done now? Don’t tell me she’s broken a nail?”
“Hector, don’t underestimate Maynard. She’s damn good at her job and has been too quiet of late.”
“Alright, Richard, so what’s she done that’s got you so upset?”
“She left Rio without checking in after I told her we were not ready to make a search of the area where your fortress is located. I haven’t heard from her since and she’s got an old friend of yours with her...”
“An old friend...Who?”
“Bastard named Vin Tanner...”
“Sonofabitch! How long ago did they leave?”
“I’m not sure, but it’s been at least a week...”
“And you’re just getting around to letting me know. I should have you killed for this! Do you know what would happen if Tanner finds me! That bastard would not think twice about putting a bullet in my head! I’ve worked damned hard to make sure no one knows what I look like anymore and you let the only man who can identify me roam the mountains without so much as telling me!”
“I tried to call you, but the phone lines weren’t working properly. At least now you can watch for them!”
“You will keep me abreast of any contact from Tanner and Maynard!”
“Of course,” Barker said, relieved that the other man no longer sounded irate.
“And Richard, if this happens again you may find yourself at the bottom of the bay without benefit of scuba gear and bleeding from several orifices. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, Hector,” the DEA agent answered as the line went dead in his hand. He hung up and reached for the bottle once more, regretting the day he’d taken his first bribe and turned away from a smuggling operation. Since that day nearly four years ago his life was no longer his own.
“Well the wayward souls return!” Nettie said as she watched her niece and nephew in law return.
“Sorry we’re late,” Larabee said, grabbing a sandwich and biting into it.
“Daddy, we gots to go. Nathan said it’s time for the scavenger hunt,” Adam said as he joined his parents beside the picnic table.
“Just let your old man grab a bite to eat, Sport,” Larabee said, reaching for a bottle of Gatorade.
“But we’ll be late!” the boy said.
“You shouldn’t have taken the time for making...”
“Buck!” Sarah laughed as she watched the rogue tease her husband.
“Wish it was that simple, Buck,” Larabee said as his wife took their son’s hand and led him after the others.
“Did something happen, Chris?” Wilmington asked softly as they followed behind the others.
“Not something...someone.”
“Ella,” the blond answered.
“Ella...Ella Gaines?” the ladies’ man asked.
“Yeah, ran into her over by the barn. Sarah saw her kissing me...”
“What the hell did you kiss that bitch...”
“Buck, I wasn’t kissing her...she was kissing me. Sarah came along just in time to see me push her away.”
“Chris, that woman’s dangerous...remember what happened the last time you two got together!”
“Yeah, I do, and that’s why I want you to find out why she’s in Billings. Get Ezra and JD to check into her dealings. I don’t want her anywhere near my family, Buck,” the blond said, smiling as Sarah turned towards them
“Are you two coming with us?” the beautiful woman asked.
“We’re comin’, Darlin’. I’m just making sure Chris knows the rules of a scavenger hunt.”
“Good, because the four of us are a team and Adam has plans on winning. Right?”
“Right, Mommy. Come on, Uncle Buck. You’s part of our team too. We gotta beats Nathan’s team and Ezra’s team too!” the boy called.
“Well, Sport, why don’t we catch up with the others and let them know who the champs are?” Buck stated, grabbing the boy and placing him on his shoulders.
Sarah reached for her husband’s hand and smiled as they walked side by side. “You told him?”
“Yeah, figured he’d need to know. He was around when Ella and I were together. I’m sorry, sweetheart, wish she hadn’t showed up today.”
“Don’t be, Chris. You certainly didn’t invite her along and you can’t be held responsible for her actions. Come on, quit being a wet blanket and let’s go have some fun.”
“Sounds good to me,” Larabee said, hurrying to catch up with the group.
Adam looked in the basket his father held and smiled as he dropped the final trinket inside. The list held twelve items and they’d successfully found each one, including an old cowboy hat, a wrench, an apple, and a hairpin. The last item was the hardest to find and he’d been the one to find it nestled under a rock at the back of the Pavilion.
“Way to go, Sport,” Larabee said as he handed his son the basket and the boy led them towards the judge’s table with less than five minutes to spare.
“We got them all!” Adam informed the elderly couple seated behind the table. Several other baskets were on the table behind them, waiting for the time to run out.
“Did you really, Son,” the man asked.
“Yep and I even found the silver dollar.”
“You did, well now all we have to do is go over the checklist once all the baskets are back and then we’ll be able to find out who wins the new bike,” the woman told him.
“A new bike?”
“That’s right, young man. whoever finds the most items on the list wins a shiny new GMC mountain bike. The size and color is up to the winner.”
“Daddy, did you hear that?”
“I sure did, Sport and I hope you win it.”
“Me too, Adam,” Sarah agreed as Nathan, Rain and Ezra returned with the basket.
“Well, looks like the last basket’s been returned. If you nice folk would just wait over there Millie and I will go over the list and let you know who the winners are.”
“Okay,” Adam said excitedly running over to Josiah and Orrin Travis. Did you hear what he said? The prize is a bike.”
“So I heard, Son, and it looks like you have a good shot at winning it,” the ex-preacher said as he lifted the boy onto a bail of hay.
“I hope I do too, J’siah, ‘cause mine’s got training wheels and I don’t want them anymore,” Adam explained as the rest of the group joined them. They laughed and talked about the excitement of the day as the child anxiously waited for the winner to be announced.
“Well, if all the teams would gather round I think we have our winner,” the woman said. She waited for the group to move closer and smiled at them all. “Okay, as you know the big prize today is the GMC bicycle behind me. It was donated by the wonderful folks at Walmart and the lucky winner will be able to exchange it for whatever size and color he or she wants. We also have two secondary prizes of a twenty five dollar gift certificate for any store at Rimrock Mall. So, I’ll announce the two second place winners first.”
A basket was quickly handed to her and she pulled out the paper inside and smiled in the direction of a family standing at the back of the crowd. “Our first second place prize goes to team eight, the Davidson family who found eleven of the twelve required items. Would the lucky team please come forward.”
The group came forward, amidst loud cheers and laughter and congratulations before moving back once more.
“Our second, second...hmm, that’s hard to say with these ol’ dentures of mine.” The crowd laughed once more as she accepted the basket form her husband. “This prize goes to team number one, the Cooper family.” Again the family came forward and accepted the prize.
“Now, I’m sure you all know that the competition was pretty fierce today, and unfortunately there can only be one winner. We want to thank all participants and their families, but I’m sure the winner is anxious to know who he or she is. The deciding factor in this scavenger hunt was a silver dollar...” She watched as the small excited boy turned to his parents. “The winning team is number six, the Larabee family and I believe our winner is this young man right here. Hello...”
“Adam, You did very well and your parents can pick up your prize at the end of the day. Congratulations.”
“Thank you,” Adam said, smiling as he took the certificate and turned to join his cheering team and the other members of his family.
“Now, Ladies and gentlemen and young cowpokes, if anyone has any items entered in the contests being judged they should make their way to the Expo Center. They’ll be announcing the winners in about fifteen minutes.”
“Well, Ladies, I believe it is time we made our way to the Expo Center and discover whether or not the judges are as smart as they appeared,” Standish said, linking his arm with Nettie Wells and leading the way out of the building.
The Expo Center was crowded, but the group managed to find standing room at the very edge of the seats. Josiah reached for Adam and lifted him onto his shoulders, giving the boy a birds eye view of the judges at center stage.
“Well, it looks like we have a threepeat winner of the blue ribbon for quilting. Congratulations to Miss Nettie Wells for her patchwork Quilt entitled Cowboys At Sunset. Mrs. Wells, could you please come forward.”
Nettie moved through the crowd, smiling as friends and family alike congratulated her once again. She accepted the ribbon and the certificate that came with it before rejoining her group.
“Next up is the baking competition and I tell you the judges had such a tough time with this one none of the evidence is left. They finally settled on an Apple Peach cobbler entered by Mrs. Greta Tucker, although they did say that all other entrants deserved honorary mention.”
Chris smiled as his son yawned and shifted his weight on Sanchez’ shoulders. He knew the boy was tired, hell, they all looked hot and weary. He turned to survey the crowd, frowning as he spotted Ella Gaines standing at the opposite side of the Center. She disappeared immediately and he shook his head as his wife looked up at him.
“Now, we’ve been blessed with an abundance of entries in the preserves department and again the judging was hard, but they’ve decided this years blue ribbon goes to Mrs. Sarah Larabee for her Peaches. Would Sarah Larabee please come up and accept her prize.”
The cheers from Sarah’s extended family were long and loud as she walked through the crowd. She blushed as the man handed her the ribbon and certificate, shaking her hand before she turned and walked away. She stood next to her husband, smiling at the pride in his eyes. Several more awards were announced as the night wore on.
“Well, there’s one final entry and that’s for crocheted blankets and afghans. There were several wonderful pieces of work entered this year and it’s my pleasure to announce the winner. Would Miss Casey Wells please come forward.”
“Yeah, Casey!” Dunne cheered, pride evident in his voice and on his face.
“Sh, JD,” Casey said as she hurried towards the stage, blushing as the young man continued to cheer her on.
“Miss Wells, it’s my pleasure to present you with the blue ribbon for the lovely design of roses and vines. Congratulations young lady.”
“Thank you. Can I also make an announcement?”
“Certainly, what is it?”
“I’d like to donate the Afghan to the charity raffle in aid of the children’s hospital,” Casey said, blushing as the crowd cheered her donation.
“Well now, young lady, that’s mighty nice of you and we’ll see that it’s delivered to the right people.”
“Thank you,” Casey said as she hurried away.
“Well, Folks, it’s been a long day and I see some tired children out there so I’d like to thank you all for coming out today and hope to see you all again next year. Good night and Godspeed!”
Chris glanced across the seat at his wife, smiling as he saw the light curls of his son’s hair sprayed across her breasts. The boy had fallen asleep before they reached the main gates to exit MetraPark. It was close to eleven o’clock and the day had worn on them all. He smiled at the wonderful memories he had of the day and felt Sarah watching him.
“Tired,” he asked without turning his head.
“No...I think I passed tired an hour ago. You know you got a little too much sun today.”
“Feels like it,” the blond said of the tightness of his skin.
“I’ve got some Aloe Vera gel in the fridge. That should help.”
“Hmm,” Larabee said as he concentrated on the road ahead. The truck was fully loaded with baskets and the new bicycle and Chris wasn’t looking forward to unloading it all.
“You know, we might as well just leave everything in the back and unpack it in the morning,” Sarah suggested, trying to hide a yawn.
“Are you reading my mine, Hon. I was just thinking the same thing. Lets just get home, put the little man to bed and maybe we can grab a few hours before he decides it’s time to go to Walmart and exchange his new bike.”
“That sounds wonderful,” Sarah agreed as Larabee turned into the driveway and stopped in front of the house.
“I’ll get him,” the blond said, getting out of the truck and walking around the front of the truck. He opened the door for his wife, handing her the keys to the house as she slid out and moved out of the way.
“...hmm...” the boy mumbled as his father lifted him into his arms.
“It’s okay, Sport, we’re home.”
“Yep, that’s right where you’re headed,” Larabee said as his son’s head nestled against his neck. He breathed in the scent of his only child, relishing in the joy of the gift bestowed on both him and his wife. He kicked the door closed behind him and followed Sarah up the steps and into the closed in porch. The couple undressed their son, put him in clean pajamas and tucked him into bed before heading for their own room.
“Chris,” Sarah said as her husband sat on the edge of the bed.
“Sleep or shower?”
“Huh?” the blond asked tiredly.
“Sleep or Shower. Which one are you in the mood for?” she asked, smiling seductively as she undid the top three buttons on her blouse. 
“Whether you’re gonna join me in the shower or not?”
“Oh, I think I can manage to stay awake long enough to take a shower...”
“Just to take a shower?”
“What else did you have in mind, Cowboy?” Sarah laughed as she ducked under his arm and rushed towards the bathroom. She cried out as his hand latched onto her arm and he turned her to face him.
“Did you just call me a cowboy?”
“Yep, sure did. What’re you gonna do about it?”
“I could take you across...” her lips touched his and his voice softened. “ knees and...”
“And what?” she asked, nipping at his upper lip.
“Damn...I can’t remember...what were we talking about?”
“Too much talking...let’s get naked!” She giggled like a schoolgirl as she pulled him into the bathroom. She hurriedly undressed as her husband did the same and they stepped into the shower/tub. She reached for the hose and turned the water on, making sure the temperature wasn’t too hot or too cold, as Chris closed the doors.
“Oh, Chris, you’re going to be mighty sore and stiff tomorrow,” Sarah winced sympathetically.
“Ah, sweetheart, I hate to tell you this, but I’m already stiff,” he said as he pressed up against her back.
“So I see. Is that something you’d like me to take care of?”
“Well, since you offered,” Larabee said, smiling as she dropped the hose and turned towards him, a lathered facecloth in her right hand. He moaned as the cloth touched his chest and slid down towards his engorged shaft. The soft material added to his pleasure and he gasped as she slid her hand between his legs, dropping the cloth as her fingers began fondling his balls. Her lips found their way to his neck and she began a fiery trail down his chest, stopping just above his navel as her fingers rubbed up against his shaft once more.
“Sarah, Love, I need...”
“Wh...what?” she muttered against his flat stomach.
“I want you.”
“I want you too, Lover,” Sarah said, leaning back to give him access to the opening to her body.
Chris smiled at how easily they read each other and gently eased his own body into position. He entered her slowly, deliberately prolonging the invasion as the heady scent of sex permeated the bathroom.
“Sh...let me set the pace, Honey...” he whispered, kissing her chin and biting at her earlobe.
“...trying...” she sighed as he pulled out until only the tip of his cock was inside her. She moaned as he drove in, deeper and deeper, moaning as he increased the pace, pulling out and sliding back inside as he lifted her. Her long legs wrapped around his waist, her head tilting backwards as she pushed against the shower wall to counterbalance her husband's thrusts.
Chris felt as if the world around him stopped, there was nothing, but this moment, this woman and the rapturous joy he felt at being inside her. He heard her moan, her breathing began to grow faster as his balls felt ready to burst. With one final thrust he sent them both spiraling into a climax that filled them both with happiness as his seed spilled inside her. He held her tight, feeling her breath on his chest as her head came to rest against him.
“Well, I think you took care of the stiff part, now how about working on the sore part?” Larabee teased as his spent cock slipped from her velvet sheath.
“I think I can take care of that as well,” she said. She picked up the cloth and slowly began to wash his body, exploring every inch as if for the first time. She made him turned and paid special attention to his buttocks, before sliding the cloth down each perfectly shaped leg. She reached for the shampoo and poured a small amount onto her hands before massaging it into his hair and scalp. Once she finished she reached for the shower hose, checking to make sure it was still at the right temperature before rinsing the soap from his body.
“Hmm, want me to return the favor?”
“Are you up for it?”
“Hmm, Sarah, do you really think that was the right question?” Larabee asked tiredly.
“Chris, I don’t think I could do anything if you were up for it,” she assured him as he picked up the hose and ran the water over her head. She felt his fingers in her hair as the scent of wildflowers assaulted her. She sighed as his fingers massaged her temples before continuing with the rest of her hair. Next he soaped her body, starting with her breasts and slipping lower until he touched up against the sensitive nub between her leg.
Chris lavished attention on his wife’s body. Enjoying the scent that was hers alone. He nestled his mouth against the back of her neck as he gently moved the warm soapy cloth over her body. He lifted his head, his eyes heavy with fatigue and reached for the shower hose. He held it above her and watched as the shampoo rinsed out of her hair and ran down her shoulder, back and finally her buttocks. He finished rinsing the soap from her body and waited for her to turn off the shower. The weary couple stepped out of the tub and reached for the heavy terrycloth towels hung on the hook by the door. By the time they dried the excess water from their bodies they were both ready to drop and barely made it to their bed. Sleep beckoned as they snuggled against each other.
“I love you, Sarah Larabee,” the blond whispered against her right ear.
“I love you too, Chris,” the woman’s soft reply barely made it past her lips as sleep overtook them both.
The Sheraton Billings hotel held a five star rating with complete amenities located at 27 North 27th St. The suite they were staying in was on the executive club floor and the remnants of the room service meal they’d ordered sat next to the bed. A bouquet of roses sat on the dresser and a half finished bottle of champagne sat in a silver ice bucket.
Ella Gaines paced the hotel room like a caged tigress, stopping every now and then to pick something up and throw it across the room. She reached for the champagne bottle and filled the elegant gold rimmed glass to the brim. She sipped lightly, but her anger got the better of her and she threw elegance to the wind as she downed the bubbly liquor. Her eyes gleamed with hatred as her naked breasts heaved with unused anger. She heard a soft chuckle from the king sized bed and rounded on the man lying on top of the sheets.
“Do you really think this is funny, Jack? That bitch thinks she own Chris. She must’ve used blackmail to get him to marry her! The little slut probably got pregnant or something and forced him to marry her! I won’t let him be stuck in a loveless marriage with a stick in the mud like that. She doesn’t know how to satisfy him...”
“They seemed happy enough and he wasn’t arguing when she told you off. She did a good job of it too!”
“Very fucking funny, Jack. How can you stand there and make jokes when you know ‘m hurting! She’s taken something that belongs to me and I’m going to get him back! Did you call Guy and Robert?”
“I spoke with Guy and he said he’d meet us at the restaurant for dinner tomorrow at seven. Robert wasn’t at home and won’t return until next week. I left a message that if he calls to get in contact with me here.”
“Did you tell Guy anything?”
“I just told him you have a problem you’d like disposed of.”
“Yes, but does he understand what or should I say who I want disposed of?”
“All he knows is it’s a woman and that price is no object. Now come back to bed, Love, and maybe I can make you forget the Larabee’s for a while,” Averil suggested, patting the mattress beside him
Ella placed the glass on the dresser and moved to the bed. Placing one knee on the bed she smiled at her lover, her tongue wetting her lips as he reached for her breasts. “You may make me forget the bitch, Jack, but I have never forgotten Chris Larabee and I never will. We were meant to be together and I aim to see that it happens, no matter what the cost.”
Jack saw the truth of those words in her eyes and smiled as he thought of the lovemaking to come. When Ella was angry, she turned into a wildcat and wanted him to fuck her fast and furious. He licked his lips in anticipation as he grabbed her arms and pulled her to him.
Vin knew it was morning and that they needed to get back on the trail, but the warm body he was snuggled up to made it hard for him to move. Her hair was soft against his cheek and he inhaled the intoxicating scent of jasmine. He felt her move against him and knew she was on the verge of waking up.
“Is it morning?” Jackie’s sleep drenched voice asked.
“Think so. Either that or someone put a thousand  watt bulb in the moon,” Tanner whispered against her ear. 
“Damn, was hoping for a few more hours...”
“Among other things,” Jackie said, turning in the close confines of the sleeping bag. She smiled at her handsome partner, loving the way his long hair tumbled over his forehead as he bent to kiss her once more. She wanted nothing more than to stay in the blanket and make love all day, but they had a job to do, and time was running out. Just before the mission started they found out the drug lord was gettin ready to make a delivery of heroin whose street value was in excess of ten million dollars. They didn’t know the exact times or the port of destination, but the heavier traffic into this area of the Rio De Janeiro mountains signaled Mendoza was getting ready to move something big. Sighing heavily she forced herself to move away from the comforting arms of the Texan.
“Guess that means the other thing’s’ll have ta wait ‘til later?”
“Afraid so, Tex, we need to get moving.” The fact that the man with her was the only one who could identify Mendoza made them prime targets, especially if she was right in her distrust of Richard Barker.
“Damn, thought Larabee was a tough taskmaster,” the sharpshooter said as he reached for the zipper.
“Thought all Texans arose before the sun hit the sky?”
“Arose?” Tanner asked mischievously.
“Let’s not start that again,” Maynard said as she struggled to stand up. They lapsed into silence while they dressed, ate a cold breakfast of crackers, cheese, and juice and finally folded the sleeping bags and tent. They had everything they needed to prove they were a newlywed couple if they were stopped, but they both understood if it was Mendoza’s men neither would be alive to testify.
Vin lifted her backpack and helped her into the straps before reaching for his own. Without a word they turned and headed higher into the mountains, carefully sticking to the side trails in an effort to stay out of sight. The foliage was thicker and the trees seemed to reach into the clouds as step by step the duo drew closer to the fortress.

PART 1 | PART 3 | PART 4 | PART 5 | PART 6 | PART 7 | PART 8 | PART 9 | PART 10 | PART 11 | PART 12 | PART 13 | PART 14 | PART 15 | PART 16 | PART 17 | PART 18


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