Good as Gold



He cornered her alone, without that brother of hers yapping away, anxious frown making the air around him tight and hot. She stared up at him with eyes he’d never seen sparkle with laughter, only with tears, and waited.

“You and me, we’ve not got along. Made no secret of it. Don’t think you belong here.”

She tilted her head, still silent. He didn’t like that. Women should babble and prattle. You didn’t have to listen to them, but they should do it. He recalled his mother and his aunts and the soft flow of gossip from their lips, taking something and chewing it until it tasted of nothing but the scandal they’d salted it with. No harm meant; it was what they did for fun.

Not this one – and when she did speak, couldn’t hardly understand her.

“But I got to thinking. Man has to make the best of things, don’t he? And you’re here and you’ve proved yourself –”

She reached towards him and pulled up his shirt and he froze. “Now, that’s not – hey!” Cool fingers traced the scar she’d put on him and he swallowed, his skin contracting and flushing hot as she trailed patterns on his skin.

“River...” He said it and realised he’d never called her that before, never thought of her as anything but ‘that girl’. “That’s done and gone. Don’t fret about it.”

“I’m not.” Her words dropped like pebbles into a stream, cool splashes against his ears. She smiled up at him, dimpling, eyes bright. “Go on.” She laid her palm flat against his face. “Tell me how sorry you are, not because you mean it, but because you’re scared I can kill you with my brain and you don’t want that.”

“What? No! That’s not why I’m –”

Her fingers brushed against his lips, stilling his lies and then dipped fast as a heron swooping down on a fish and dived into his pocket. If he was hard by the time her hand came out, clutching a sparkle of twisted metal studded with clear stones, he wasn’t going to apologise. Woman went south, could expect to get burned.

She held up the necklace, eyes wide, lips parted. Nothing much, but he’d taken care choosing it.

“You think this is enough to save your mind?” she demanded, scowling fiercely.

He began to stammer and then set his jaw. “Damn straight! It’s pretty and...I think it’d look good on you.”

She studied it. “Cheaply plated, mass produced and the stones are glass.”

“Fine. Give it back and blast my brain. See if I care.”

She grinned and kissed him, hard and fast and painful, just like it’d felt when she slashed him open. “Maybe later.”

Then she was gone, the necklace shining in her fist as she ran, and before she was out of sight he was smiling. And that was worth trading in his third favourite gun.

Plated? Lying bastard swore it was solid gold...

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