Author's Choice - Coyote
The Favor
The Tahoe Ladies

I had known Coyote a good two minutes when I came to the conclusion that she was good Tahoe Lady material. Just looking at her, you know that there is adventure in her soul; she also has that rare capacity to be fun and serious at the same time. When I made the suggestion to join us, there was no hesitation whatsoever. She was game. Throughout all of our writing together, she manages to do the same thing she does with life: get (and give) the absolute most she can. ~ ITL


“Boys, I have a favor to ask one of you,” Ben started that fateful fall evening as they sat having their evening coffee in front of the fireplace.

None of the three looked at him, but they all locked eyes with one another. Adam slipped his finger in between the pages of the book he had been reading, marking his place and looked to Hoss and Joe. Hoss paused as he was setting up the checkerboard, his glance taking in both Adam and Joe. Joe lowered his coffee cup and swallowed, letting his eyes dart to his two older brothers.  All were thinking the same thought: when Pa asks for a favor it usually doesn’t bode well. Each was cataloging a list of excuses to be used should he be the one singled out.  And each one was trying to decide how to get one of the others thrown into the fire, so to speak.

Finally, Adam realized that the other two weren’t even going to acknowledge their father’s words and that he had been pushed silently to the forefront. “What sort of favor, Pa?”

“Governor McDermott is coming to Virginia City next week on a re-election campaign swing and the Cattlemen’s Association is throwing a dinner in his honor.” And Ben watched as the three traded glances again. He cleared his throat and continued, picking his words carefully. “His daughter Colleen is accompanying him and she needs an escort for the evening. I told the Association that one of my sons would deem it an honor to escort the young lady.” The first one to move, Ben thought, the first one that moves a muscle takes her.

A look of utter relief crossed Hoss’ face.  Doesn’t count, Ben thought.

Adam swallowed hard. Come on now! Ben couldn’t count that as movement if he hadn’t counted Hoss’ changing expression.

But Joe jumped to his feet, ready to run from the room. Maybe if his father couldn’t see him…

“Thank you, Joseph,” he said and then Ben smiled at his youngest. It stopped his son dead in his tracks.

“Uh, what for, Pa?” Joe queried, the dreaded feeling of being trapped coming over him.

“Volunteering.” When Joe dropped back onto the sofa, groaning, the other three just laughed.

All of the rest of that week and into the following week, Joe tried to talk his father out of it. The governor’s daughter, oh really, what did they have in common? The only subject Joe felt comfortable discussing was horses. Politics didn’t interest him in the very least. And the harder he tried to weasel out of it, the more determined Ben was that Joseph should do it.  If Joe had simply given in, Ben might have had more sympathy but by the afternoon of the dinner, he had absolutely no tolerance left.

Joe had come in from the barn, still trying to find a way out of the dinner. With a heavy sigh, he shrugged out of his jacket and unbuckling his gunbelt, rolled it and placed it on the sideboard before he walked over to where his father sat at his desk. He carefully sat down on the corner of the desk, facing his father. Wordlessly, Ben looked up from his figures.

“What if I told you I had a headache?” Joe tried again.

Eyeing his son’s handsome face and flashing green eyes, Ben let a sly smile crease his own features. “I would tell you that you are still going to be her escort for the evening. I believe Hop Sing is getting the water hot for you right now so get cleaned up.”

Joe opened his mouth to say something but Ben put up his hand to silence him.

“Sometimes a man just has to do what he has to do, Joseph, and this is just one of those times for you.  No more discussion. Go!” Ben pronounced and he pointed towards the stairs for emphasis. He almost laughed aloud at his son’s discomfort as Joe climbed the stairs, much like a man going to his own lynching.

Joe was soaking in the big brass tub full of hot soapy water when Hoss and Adam came into the washroom. Their spirits were as high as Joe’s were low.  The past ten days they had teased him unmercifully and today wasn’t going any differently.

“Hey Adam. You suppose that the governor’s daughter has a wart on the end of her nose?” Hoss teased, not looking at his little brother, as he pumped cold water into the basin to wash his own face.

“Probably. I hear tell that she’s a real woman, all right.  All two hundred pounds of her!  Be careful when you pull her chair out for her, Joe.  That big a woman could slip and smash you flat,” Adam quipped, not even looking in Joe’s direction and laughing uproarishly. That is until the object of their mirth threw a wet wash cloth at him and it landed with a wet smack on the back of his head.

“Testy, aren’t we?” Adam quipped as older Cartwright brothers left the room still laughing.

Forty-five minutes later, Ben tapped on Joe’s bedroom door and without waiting for an answer, pushed it open.

“You ready?” Ben asked, coming up behind Joe and looking into the same mirror as his son. For a swiftly fleeting moment, he was looking at the face of his beloved Marie, those same bright eyes and high cheekbones. He blinked and she disappeared, leaving their son in her place. Ben reached up and smoothed the collar of Joseph’s white silk shirt down over the jade green brocade vest he wore that night.

My God, Marie, we have a handsome one. But you know that, don’t you? he thought to himself but aloud said “I thought you were going to get a haircut.”

“Well, I didn’t. Does that mean that I don’t have to go?” The rebellion in his youngest only made him more appealing, Ben thought wryly.

Pressing his lips firmly together kept Ben from smiling as he turned Joseph around to face him square on. Keeping his face neutral, Ben tied Joseph black string tie and brushed his shoulders of imaginary lint before allowing his hands to simply rest on them. Knitting his eyebrows together in an all too familiar frown, Ben stared at his son.

“You are twenty three years old. You have ample experience in dealing with women.  You have been brought up knowing your manners. I expect you to mind them this evening and treat the young lady as you would any date you have had in the past. Do I make myself clear?”

Picking up his black suit jacket and slipping it on, Joe gave his father a rather mournful look before sighing loudly. The look of resignation to his fate was plain.“Yes sir.”

“Good, now lets go.”

As they descended the stairs, Hoss and Adam were just settling down in the main room. Hoss let a loud wolf whistle loose when he saw them. “Virginia City better lock up all it’s available women tonight, big brother. Look what’s on the loose!”

Ben scowled at his other sons. He had half a mind to make them hurry and dress to go with he and Joseph. Apt punishment for what they had put Joe through in the past week and a half.  But there wasn’t time. With a snort, he tugged at his blue vest and settled his dark gray jacket sleeves.

“Don’t wait up for us,” was his admonishment to them as he pushed Joe towards the door and the waiting horses outside.

The lights of the Washoe Club blazed brightly in the crisp autumn evening as Ben and Joe pulled up at the reception for the governor prior to the dinner. They handed over their horses to the livery boy and went into the bright lights. Ben glanced over and saw that at least Joe had a smile on his face. Not a big one but a smile all the same. They were working their way through the receiving line when Ben felt his son stiffen beside him.

“Is that the governor’s daughter, Pa?” Joe asked softly and nodded towards the head of the line.

“Must be. I have never met her but she is there right beside the governor. Why? Put a different perspective on the evening?”

By that time, the two Cartwrights were being introduced to Governor Charles McDermott and his daughter, Colleen. It was no stretch for the younger of the two to put forth his best smile and charm for Colleen McDermott was a dazzlingly beautiful young woman.

She smiled back when she was introduced to young Joseph Cartwright, thinking that he was nothing like what she had imagined when she was first told of her escort. Then he had picked up her hand and kissed it, his eyes never leaving her face.

The doors to the main dining room opened just then. Never letting her hand go, Joe tucked it under his arm and still smiling, led her towards the head table. Every head turned to watch them.  She came to his shoulder in height but carried herself as though she were taller. Her emerald green silk gown caught and reflected to glow of the lamps as did her waist length auburn hair, pulled loosely behind her. Looking down at her, Joe saw her own green eyes flashing back up at him, daring him almost.

Ben found himself across the table from his son, the governor and his daughter with mayor of Virginia City and his wife beside him. He took a long look at the governor’s daughter then and almost laughed out loud, thinking of the trepidation his son had been going through. It wasn’t there now, for certain. In fact, just the opposite seemed to be happening, Joe leaning in to the young lady, paying rapt attention. Just then, Joe looked across and saw his father watching him closely. The scamp, he thought when Joe winked at him.

The dinner came and went, the talk at their table ebbing and flowing of the politics of the day. Statehood wasn’t that far behind them and the difficulties of the War were but mute shadows now. Nevada was struggling to find its place in the Union. A young state, rich in minerals was also a young state that had to have firm guidance so as to not fall into the anarchy of disputes as its neighbor California had.  Land titles were being scrutinized carefully. Mineral, timber, water and land rights were being bought and sold at a dizzying pace as the Silver spiral continued its upward trend. Many old and long time families in California had lost all rights to their lands that were based on Spanish grants. Nevada was determined not to have the same duplicated there but it was difficult to say the least. Added to that was now the Gold versus Silver Standard issue. Nevada, holding the largest amount of silver in the country was pressing hard for currency to be based solely on silver.

As the now familiar talk swirled around Colleen McDermott’s head, she took the time to study her dinner companion. Her father had told her very little about him except that his family owned the biggest spread in Nevada and that the family could influence many voters. Besides, it was just for one evening. She had been cordial and politic before, she could do it again. She had viewed it as an unpleasant chore. Now she wasn’t so sure.

Unlike other “escorts” she had had in recent weeks, this one didn’t try to draw her into vapid discussions of the weather or, God forbid, politics. When he smiled at her, there was enough devilment that it intrigued her. Even though she knew his family circumstances, she wasn’t surprised to find that he was obviously a ‘working man” with a tan that spoke of being outside. When he had taken her hand in his, she had noticed the slight roughness to them. But more than anything else, there was an animal magnetism about him. For the first time in the many weeks that she and her father had been out on the campaign trail, Colleen wanted off the public wagon. She wanted to explore this entity beside her, this Joseph Cartwright.

Joe was likewise having trouble concentrating on what was going on around him. Looking at the woman seated next to him was like peering at spinning top, his eyes kept wanting to drop further down than polite society allowed. The cut of her gown showed the tops of her firm white breasts, her elegant neck carried the weight of a diamond pendant and it gleamed in the lamplight. He found himself wanting to touch that tiny little pulse at the base of her throat with his lips. She was looking at him closely now so he winked at her.

Quickly, Colleen leaned over to her father, touching his arm to get his attention.

“Father, I have a dreadful headache. May I be excused this evening, please?”

If Charles McDermott had had the same experiences raising children that Ben Cartwright had had, he would have seen through his daughter’s ruse that evening. But Colleen was his only child and he tended to believe her in every way. So when she looked at him with pleading in her green eyes, he acquiesced with a nod of his head.

“I am sure that Mr. Cartwright would be happy to escort me back to my room, Father,” and with that she stood, as did the men at her table. With a swish of silk, she took Joe’s arm and they went around the table in order to leave.

Joe momentarily stopped behind his father and so low no one else heard, whispered “Don’t wait up for me.”

Every man in the Washoe Club that evening watched her leave, envious of Joseph Cartwright.

Once they were out onto the broad walkway, she stopped and looked up at him, a huge smile on her face.

“Got a buggy some where close by? It is such a nice evening I would like to go for a ride,” she asked, pulling close to him.

 “No, but I know where the livery stable is. But do you want to go out in that gown? Would be a shame to ruin it…” and Joe quit talking, realizing he was close to voicing some very inappropriate thoughts.

She chuckled deep in her throat. “I’ll go change. Find me a horse…forget the buggy. Fifteen minutes at the back door to the International House.”

“Make it ten. I ain’t gonna wait all night.”

Seven minutes later, she stepped out the back door of the hotel, this time wearing a full skirt, dark in color and a white silk blouse. Over her arm, she carried a dark jacket. She looked for Joe. She saw one horse standing there, a pinto. Where was he? Had he lost his nerve? Had she misjudged him that badly?

Just then he stepped out of the shadows where he had been watching her. There were warning bells going off in the back of his mind that this was going way too fast. But he consciously shut them down.

“Over here,” he called and startled her.

“There’s only one horse,” she stated, perplexed.

This time it was his turn to chuckle and she liked the sound of it. “What, don’t like riding double?” he asked. “Come on, I’ll give you a hand up.”

Once she was astride the pinto, he swung up behind her. The very nearness of him was like an intoxicating potion to her. When he reached around her and grabbed the reins, she leaned back into him, feeling his breath on her neck. Her heart raced.

“Where we are going?” she managed to whisper as they walked the horse down the back alley, going from shadow to shadow.

“Shhh,” he hissed into her ear then put his arm around her waist. He barely nudged the horse and it moved into an effortless lope. Colleen had the impression of sitting in a rocking chair as the horse took them out into the countryside, awash with moonlight.

When he finally pulled the horse to a stop, they were far beyond the lights of town, overlooking Lake Tahoe. The moonlight made the surface shimmer like a thousand jewels and just the sight of it took Colleen’s breath away.

He let the reins drop but made no move to dismount. Instead he pulled her back to him. When his lips touched the side of her neck, she thought she would melt away. At the same time, his hands moved up her sides, then stopped to cup her breasts. She leaned her head onto his shoulder and let her hands slowly stroke his legs, moving ever closer inside with each pass they made.

“You keep doing that and I don’t know how long I can remain ladylike,” she warned softly.

“Do you want me to stop?” Joe whispered into her ear, thinking that if she said ‘yes’ it was going to be a very rough ride back into town.

“You do and I will simply die right here and now, Joe Cartwright.”

"Can’t have that on my conscience, now can I?” and he swung down off the horse in one smooth graceful movement that reminded Colleen of a cat’s grace. She started to dismount but found him pulling her down instead.

Standing face to face with her, Joe heard the warning bells again go off in his head. She was so beautiful. So willing. She was looking up at him with such eagerness on her face, her hands now running up his chest, untying his tie, undoing his shirt buttons. He grabbed up her hands in his when he felt her fingers against his bare chest. Leaning down over her, he covered her mouth with hard intense kisses, reaching for her soul as he held her hands. As he did so, he threw caution and care completely to the winds.

Joe wasn’t in the least surprised that Colleen was matching him step for step, passion for passion. From the moment she had lied to her father about a headache, he knew she was used to getting her way with men.  She was aggressive and her hands, now free, were entangling themselves in his hair, pulling him ever closer, urging him on. But she wasn’t the only one used to getting their way. He had danced the dance with many a woman but had always been the one in control of the tempo. Joe found himself willing with this one to let her set the speed, thinking he could step in at any time and reassert dominance.

Out of breath, she stepped back away from him. Joe started to move towards her but she stopped him with a hand to his chest and held him with her eyes. Slowly, drawing out each motion, she unbuttoned each of the buttons on her blouse and let it drop behind her to the grass. Her flesh showed pearly white in the moonlight over the lace of her chemise. Now holding him back with just her eyes, she unlaced her chemise and it dropped like a rose petal to the grass as well, exposing her full breasts to him. Colleen heard him draw in a shuddering breath. She turned her back to him but kept her head turned so she could watch him. She quickly undid the band of her skirt and let it and her petticoat pool at her feet.  Her stockings and shoes seemed to disappear and she turned back to face him fully, completely nude but for the moonlight covering her.

Colleen took two steps to Joe. She could see that he was breathing deeply now and was aroused. Still keeping his eyes locked on hers, she eased the dark jacket off his shoulders. When he started to unbutton the vest she stopped his hands with hers.

“Let me,” she said, her voice husky with passion. And the vest and shirt fell to the grass as well. God, she thought, running her hands up over his smooth chest, he is so…but her mind couldn’t find the right word for the emotion she felt. Gently raking her fingers over him, she felt herself losing control and she eagerly sought his kiss again.

As they kissed, Joe let his hands roam over her body. Her flesh was warm to the touch. He could feel her nipples harden beneath his palms as he gently kneaded her breasts. His other hand he let drop to her buttocks and he pulled her hips to him, knowing she could feel just how badly he wanted her body.

Releasing her lips from his, he pulled together the will power to stop her hands from their own investigations. “This would go a lot faster if you would finish the job you started,” he teased.

“You are so right.” And with a gentle shove she had him on his back in the damp grass. There was a gleam in her eyes and a smile to her lips as she leaned down and pulled off his boots. “But these come off so slowly” and she undid his pants, the same way she had her blouse, one button at a time. By the time she was finished undressing him, Joe wasn’t sure how much longer he could hold back. Fortunately, he didn’t have to wait much longer. With that self-same aggressiveness he had noted earlier, Colleen straddled him, impaling herself with a gasp of pleasure as she took in all of him at once. That was all it took for them both to explode at once, giving way to sensations as old as humankind.

Colleen collapsed, spent onto his chest and he cradled her there, feeling the residual waves of passion coursing through her body, making him want her again. He rolled her over onto her back and took her again, thrusting deeper and deeper within. This time, when she felt him come, it was as though hot fire had coursed through her womb.

Many minutes later, as they lay side by side, completely spent, Colleen looked at him, his head thrown back, eyes closed. How perfect, she thought he was.

“You know I usually have at least a blanket under me,” she teased, rolling to her side and rising on one elbow. As though it were a magnet, she put her hand to his chest, stroking it. He caught it in his grasp and took the fingers to his lips and kissed them.

“You keep doing that and we are gonna have to have another go around, Miss McDermott.  And if I had known what tonight was going to bring, I certainly would have obliged you with a blanket. But I really think that we need to be getting you back to town before your father realizes you don’t have a headache.”

After quickly dressing, they remounted the waiting horse, this time with Colleen behind Joe, her arms wrapped around him. Once again he nudged the pinto and the horse broke into its mile-eating lope. She found that she didn’t have to hang on but did anyway, just for the pleasure of the feel of him.

It was just eleven and the after-dinner speeches were just finishing when Joe and Colleen returned to Virginia City, once again taking the back streets to avoid detection. At the back door of the International Hotel, they shared another very un-socially acceptable kiss and embrace before she turned and hurried inside. Taking Cochise’s reins in his hand, he walked to the livery and got his father’s big buckskin.  Just as the doors were opening at the Washoe Club, Joe pulled up and waited for his father to emerge.  He had carefully checked his appearance in the darkened windows as he passed and knew there was no obvious sign of his night’s activities.

“Been waiting long, Joseph?” Ben asked as he mounted Buck and they moved down the darkened street.

“Not too long,” was the only answer Ben got.

“So now you see, son, sometimes when a man does something he doesn’t really want to do, it turns out better than he expected,” Ben lectured.

It was a good thing that Joe was slightly behind him so Ben didn’t see the slow smile that came across Joe’s face. As it was, all Ben heard was “You are so right, Pa.”

End of the tale….

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