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DISCLAIMER: The characters of Xena and Gabrielle belong to MCA/Universal. No copyright infringement is intended. This is a Uber-Xena western. The characters of Rena, Holly, and the others in this story are mine. Please do not use any of it or alter this story without permission.

VIOLENCE WARNING/DISCLAIMER: This story depicts scenes of violence and/or their aftermath. Readers who are disturbed by or sensitive to this type of depiction may wish to read something other than this story.

LOVE/SEX WARNING/DISCLAIMER: This story depicts a love/sexual relationship between two consenting adult women. If you are under 18 years of age or if this type of story is illegal in the state or country in which you live, please do not read it. If depictions of this nature disturb you, you may wish to read something other than this story.

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Rena The Renegade

by Weekend Warrior

The Texas sun was high above her head and beating down on them. They had traveled long and hard for the past week. Her teeth were rattling from the being on the horse for so long, not to mentioned her muscles were starting to knot up. She spotted a town coming up ahead. No sign of the posse, perhaps they should rest the horses; in truth, the horses were not the only thing that needed rest. Fighting among the men was getting out of control. They needed a release. Besides, Rena swore she would not be able to walk straight for a couple days. A paste of dust and sweat covered every square inch of her body. The thought of a soft bed and a bath convinced her that they could risk a short stay in the town.

Rena was not familiar with this town, Poteet; however, the town was small enough that it posed no threat - no reason to feel it out before going in. As they reached the edge of town, Rena held up her hand which slowed the entire gang to a trot in a unified motion. The gang rode right through the middle of Poteet. The town folk stopped in their tracks to gawk at the unruly bunch, as more town folk emerged from the buildings to stand and gawk.

There were six men in her gang, she imagined their presence to be pretty impressive to this small town. The rest of her gang was waiting at the hideout but of course that was in the opposite direction. She would have to loose the posse before heading for the hideout. A town this size would not have a saloon. What she would give for a cool mug of beer to wash the dust down.

Holly was listening intently to her father tell stories of far away places. This was their daily routine as they took care of the Inn business. Holly had heard them all before but did not grow tired of hearing them again. Both were startled and immediately went to look out the windows as the hotel began to shake. "Riders" informed Holly’s father. Holly could hear the fear and apprehension in her father’s voice. Outsiders were a mixed blessing. They meant business for the Inn, but more times than not, the business was not worth the trouble that they brought. Poteet was a stop on a stage route so most of the guests to the Inn were overnight guests waiting for the stage to go out again in the morning. Guest from the stage were generally refined and well mannered, entirely different from the rift raft that just rode in from time to time.

As Holly looked out the window, she could not believe what she saw. Riding in front of these rough looking men was a woman. The men followed her lead, waiting for signals. Holly ran to the door to get a better look. Her father immediately ran to the door to make sure it was safe. The woman sat straight in the saddle, her hat shaded her eyes that were looking straight ahead, very alert, taking in every detail. Dark hair was drawn back and tied behind her head. The woman was covered with dust head to toe, but the beauty underneath was unmistakable, not exactly what you would expect to see with this bunch of men. The duster she wore hung loosely. The shirt that she wore was unbuttoned at the top revealing the swell of her breasts. She rode a spirited fawn colored horse which she controlled with ease.

All of a sudden Holly realized they were headed her direction. The woman’s crystal clear blue eyes met hers. The eyes twinkled and a mischievous half smile curved up one side of the woman’s face. Holly felt her body freeze held in the gaze of those eyes, stunned she could not move. Not until the woman looked away, Her father pulled her back into the Inn. "Holly, go into the kitchen" her father sternly instructed her. She hesitated a moment. "Now!" he ordered.

This town looked like so many others that she had been through, the main street was lined by box shaped buildings with their awnings hanging out front. ‘Well this town is not going to be very entertaining, that’s for sure’ Rena thought. She will have to come up with some way to entertain her men; otherwise, they will tear this small town to pieces as a release. Ah, she spotted the Inn and started towards it. Noticing the young woman in the doorway. She had golden-red hair and innocent looking sea-green eyes. ‘Maybe there was some entertainment in this small town after all’. The thought brought a smile to her lips.

She dismounted in front of the Inn. After instructing some of her men to take care of the horses, another to position himself at the outskirts of the town to keep watch, the rest of the men followed her into the Inn. "7 rooms" she instructed the Innkeeper.

"I only have 6 rooms, and only 4 of those rooms are available." replied the Innkeeper.

The woman pinned the Innkeeper with her icy blue eyes. "Make all 6 rooms available and I’ll take your room". Her men chuckled. The Innkeeper paused not knowing what to do.

Holly had been listening behind the kitchen door and had heard enough. She joined her father behind the desk. "Just where is my father expected to sleep?" she challenged. "Are we suppose to just throw folks out of their rooms to make room for you?" she continued.

"Holly!" her father suddenly concerned for his daughter.

This show of defiance amused the blue-eyed woman. The icy cold stare turned into a mischievous grin as she turned to the source of this defiance. "Charlie, make the two additional rooms available" she ordered not taking her eyes off the sea-green eyes. The intensity of those blue eyes forced Holly to take a step back. There was no room in those eyes for disagreement, to do so was dangerous.

One of her men obediently went up the stairs, taking them two at a time. Shortly two men carrying half closed suitcases were rushing down the stairs. They stopped momentarily to talk to the Innkeeper and then thought better of it and rushed out the door of the Inn.

"As for your father ... I’ve changed my mind. I’ll take your room." she smirked to the sea-green eyes. Holly swallowed hard. Again this caused a chuckle to go through her men.

Her father was about to protest when the woman stopped him by holding up her hand. "We are hungry and we need baths in that order". Without further comment, the woman lead her men into the dining room.

Both Holly and her father were stunned. The woman had left no room for argument. After a moment Holly regained her composure. "Can she do that?"

"We had better just play along until they leave. Perhaps they will only stay the night. You can sleep in my room. I’ll take their orders" her father offered and started towards the dining room.

"No, you see to their baths. I’ll take their orders" Holly’s voice was shaking.

"Are you sure?" her father hesitated, glancing towards the dinning room.

Seeing how worried her father was, she forced her voice to sound more confident this time. "Yeah, I’ll be okay." She was determined to show that she was not beaten.

By the time Holly had entered the dinning room, the woman and her men were already situated at two tables. The woman had removed her hat leaving a dust line across the top of her forehead. Her dark hair was pulled back from her face into a braid. Holly picked up the menus and quietly handed them out. Then she stood behind the blue-eyed woman waiting.

Rena’s spirits had picked up. She expected to be exhausted and sore from the long ride. Her men’s spirits seem to have picked up too. Perhaps it was from the thought of being able to rest, finally. That last job had turned bad. They got away with the loot from the bank, but they lost two of her men in the process. The town had formed a sizable posse that had stayed close behind them for days. They lost the posse by riding down the river for miles. It had been hard on the horses.

Rena glanced at the menu in her hands then looked over her shoulder. "Just bring us the house specialty." She handed the menu back. Holly pulled on the menu but it did not give so she looked up at the face waiting for the eye contact. Now that Rena had her attention she added as a warning "It better be good" then smiled to take the bite out of the implied threat. Holly hesitated at seeing the smile, completely taken off guard by the playful gesture. After a moment she realized that the woman had released the menu. She gathered the menus and started to leave the room.

Rena stopped her exit by asking "What have you got to drink in this place?".

Turning around she started spouting off the list of refreshments. "Ice Tea, Lemonade, ...." Holly’s words trailed off as she noticed the contorted looks on their faces. Confused since it was the middle of the day.... "Wine? Beer?" she offered.

"Do you have any whiskey?" this came from Charlie.

"Uh ... no" came the answer.

"Beer for everyone." This came from the blue-eyed leader. This is not a good idea, Holly thought to herself.

Holly delivered the beer in pitchers and then avoided the room until the dinners were ready.

Holly brought the plates in two at a time. She sat the first one in front of the blue-eyed woman who nodded her approval of the meal.

Her men were joking and telling stories loudly. Obviously loosing up after their hard ride. It was good to see but she would have to make sure she kept it in check. The beer was making Rena feel light headed, having not eaten anything all day. "Rena, how did you get that information about the money shipment?" asked one of her men.

Holly stopped what she was doing, turned her head to the man that spoke. "Rena? Rena Halston?" the astonishment was in her voice as her eyes went wide in comprehension. This was one of the most wanted outlaws in the land, Rena Halston the Renegade! Her stories were legendary. Holly often exchanged stories with the carpetbaggers that came through. The Renegade stories were by far the most outlandish.

"Nice going Billie!" several men shouted at the same time. With calm cool eyes, the Renegade eyed Holly trying to read her expression, expecting disgust and fear. Holly glanced at the Renegade and was met by crystal clear blue eyes and a raised eyebrow. Quickly, she dropped her eyes and continued with her task of distributing the plates. What the Renegade saw intrigue and awe. Interesting she thought.

"How did you get that information?" Billie pursued. "Did you seduce one of the tellers?"

"Nah, ... the bankers wife." The Renegade revealed. At this, Holly dropped one of the plates she was holding. The gravy splattered everywhere but the plate was intact. The Renegade smiled at Holly’s reaction and at her men who gawked at her wide eyed. "Whhaaaat?" she drawled out.

"No way" Billie shouted. She was so full of hot air. There’s no way she could do half the things that were attributed to her.

The Renegade just shrugged "Believe what you want." Truth be told, the banker’s wife had practically seduced her. The banker’s wife had learned that her husband had visited a whore house while on a business trip and wanted to get even. It was almost too easy to get the information. Unfortunately, she did not find out how heavily guarded the money was.

The men started whooping and whistling at the revelation. "Way to go Rena" was shouted by several of the men.

The men tore into the food as quickly as it was placed in front of them. Rena nibbled at her plate watching Holly out of the corner of her eye. It was as if the conversation about the Inn rooms had never taken place. Holly was treating her men with the respect of what she imagined any other guest would receive while staying here. After all of the plates had been given out, Holly refilled the pitchers of beer and left the room.

Normally, the towns folks would gather in the Inn after dinner expecting Holly to recite some stories that she recently read or stories that she got from recent travelers; however, she doubted if any of the normal town folk would show up tonight and she had no desire to share stories with that ruthless bunch.

Holly went to her room and looked around. This was her own little niche in the world. The thought of a total stranger touching her most intimate possessions brought heart felt anger to her eyes. Her father had placed a bathtub in her room for the outlaw and filled it with warm water. Not even Holly had ever had the luxury of bathing in her own room. The men would have to use the shared bathroom. She picked up personal items for the overnight stay in her fathers room and her diary. The thought of a stranger reading her diary was horrifying.

She turned to leave this room that had always afforded her privacy to be startled at seeing The Renegade standing in the doorway watching her. The Renegade let her eyes slowly roam up the younger woman. Holly felt her face flush and her heartbeat increase rapidly.

The Renegade had watched as the young woman went around the room, hesitantly picking up items almost caressing the articles as if to protect them. When turned around to leave the Renegade made of show of checking her out, from head to toe. She was wearing a plaid skirt that went to mid-calf, a white crisply pressed shirt which was wrinkled from the days activities, and a green ribbon holding the golden-red hair out of her eyes. The skirt and blouse nicely shaped the subtle curves around the hips and chest - very nice. Rena could get lost in those sea-green eyes except in that moment they went from calm to stormy.

Holly regained her composure to realize this was the person throwing her out of her own room.

"Holly, Where are you going?" The Renegade asked with a smile. The night is beginning to get even better.

With an upturned chin, "I’ll stay in my fathers room tonight" Holly replied through clenched teeth. ‘As if you care where I have to spend the night.’

"I didn’t say you had to leave" The Renegade suggested seductively.

Not expecting this, Holly stopped cold. ‘Did she really just say what I thought she did? Was that story about the Banker’s wife true? She is obviously just toying with you. Who does this woman think she is that she can just come in here and take over the Inn?’ Discounting the remark, she gathered her courage to retort, "I would rather be hogged tied and dragged through the middle of town".

The smile left. "That could be arranged" countered The Renegade, then "Go, get out". So much for her good mood.

The bath felt good down to the bone. Her sore muscles relaxed in the warm water. She could almost go to sleep right there in the bathtub, ... if it weren’t for those words that kept coming to her over and over again. "I would rather be ....." Rena said out loud in a mocking voice. Rena kept going over everything that happened today. She had been rather nice to these town folks considering who she was. So what exactly is that green-eyed woman’s problem? And WHY did it matter?

After dinner the men started arm wrestling and then that escalated into all out wrestling. They were oblivious to the fact that they were trashing the Inn. Looking for further entertainment, Billie got an idea as a couple entered room looking for Holly.

A scream broke Rena out of her thoughts. "Damn." I should be keeping an eye on those guys. She quickly dried off, threw on a robe of Holly’s, grabbed her gun, and then proceeded to find the source of the screaming.

The Renegade rushed down the hallway joined by Holly and her father as they proceeded into the dining room. The men had pinned the man up against the wall and the woman was pinned onto one of the tables. She was screaming and kicking at them as they made grabs for her. Holly lunged forward towards the men but was held back by a strong hand. The Renegade fired her gun into the floor, knowing this was the fastest way of getting everyone’s attention. Holly and her father jumped at the loud sound that was so close by. It wasn’t until then that Holly noticed it was the Renegade that had held her back.

For a moment everyone froze. The Renegade glared across the room. By experience her men knew when to back down. That is all except the latest member of the gang.

"We are just having a little fun!" this came defensively from Billie. Then he smirked "You’re not the only one that gets to have all the fun" as he looked at Holly.

As everyone followed Billie’s gaze to Holly, the Renegade moved so quickly no one saw her move. Her fist smashed Billie in the face so hard he went sailing over the table. She leaped over the table swiftly lifting him up by the shirt and pounded another fist into his abdomen. As he went down, she brought her elbow down into his head. He dropped into a limp heap onto the floor. Everyone in the room was staring at her. To one of her men, she ordered "Thomas, get this piece of crap on his horse".

"Rena, there’s no harm done." Charlie liked having Thomas in the gang, his indifference to Rena gave Charlie some leverage with the rest of the gang. Rena’s days were numbered.

"You heard me, get him on his horse, Now!" She looked at the woman who was now curled into a ball crying. The Renegade managed to soften her voice. "Get her out of here."

The man pinned against the wall pushed his assailants away as he made his way to his wife. The man, Holly and her father helped her off the table and assisted her in walking out of the room as the her legs seem to be jelly.

"I can’t leave you for a minute! You know my rules!" This was something that the Renegade was adamant about. They did not hurt women and children. Many a time, she had to drone this into her men when they had been on the road too long. Sensing no further resistance, she attempted to change the subject. She exaggeratedly sniffed the air. "You guys stink! Go get a bath and go to bed! Get some rest! We may have to pull out in the morning."

Seeing the men head for their rooms, the Renegade returned to hers.

Holly was leaning against the wall by the door frame when she got there. "Umm ... I ... I just ... wanted to say thanks."

"They ... uh ... we have just been on the road along time." Rena realized how lame that sounded as it came out. ‘Why was she making excuses for her gang? No one was going to stand up to her.’

An awkward silence fell between them. Holly suddenly realized that the Renegade was wearing her robe and that it was partially open down the front exposing the side of her well rounded breasts and the taught muscles that covered her stomach. The muscles in the Renegade’s arms bulged tightly against the fabric of the robe made for someone much smaller. Holly felt the warmth creep into her face as she tried to make eye contact in order to keep her eyes off other areas. Making eye contact with those blue eyes was difficult enough. "That robe doesn’t fit you very well." Holly offered with a shy smile.

The Renegade noticed the wondering eyes and smiled knowingly. "No?." She reached for the cloth that held the robe together as she proceeded towards the room, deliberately stepping very close to Holly. It would be so easy to pick her up and carry her into the room. She locked eyes with sea-green for a moment. The desire that she had seen quickly turned to fear. Down girl! She’s just a young girl. Tossing the idea aside she proceeded into the room. After she passed by, Holly released a breath that she didn’t realize she was holding as goosebumps covered her skin. There was an unmistakable surge of electricity surrounding that woman. Holly watched her proceed into the room.

"Goodnight." The Renegade spoke softly over her shoulder as the robe fell. She stepped over to the bed and blew out the lantern. She felt her good mood return.

"Good..." Holly saw the robe fall. The darkness released her from the mesmerized state. "..night" She managed to get out before turning down the hallway towards her father’s room. She willed her legs to move.

As usual, Rena got up just before dawn. She jumped out of bed. She felt good, well rested. The soreness was fading. She quickly got dressed. Checking to make sure the gun was properly loaded by spinning the cylinder before holstering it. She left the Inn and quickly walked around the perimeter of the town stopping by the lookout. Everything was quiet. It was a beautiful day. There was no reason to pull out today. This small town had no law to speak of and therefore posed no threat as she had suspected. Another day of rest would do the men a world of good. Tonight she would have to find a distraction to keep them occupied.

Entering the Inn, she was overwhelmed with the fresh smell of coffee. The dining room was dark so she went to the kitchen. "Good Morning" she greeted the cook. The cook nearly jumped out of her skin having not heard the Renegade enter.

"Sorry. Just thought I could get a cup of coffee. " She apologized with a smirk.

The cook smiled back, embarrassed, at having been scared so easily. She went over to the cabinet, pulled out a cup and handed it over. The cook eyed her as she poured the coffee.

"Its none of my business, but why do you travel with that bunch?" questioned the cook.

"You’re right, its none of you business" Came a glare and the abrupt answer as she left the kitchen.

Rena was sitting on the porch watching as the town woke up. Small towns help her relax, or as least as much as she ever could relax. They remind her of her own quiet home town. In the bigger towns, you could get ran over just walking down the street. People left her alone in small towns, her intimidation was too much for them. In the bigger towns, she got called out to the street almost every night. When she was in good mood, she would intimidate her opponent into backing down. Some of them were enemies, God only knows she has enough of those, but most of them were kids that wanted to make a name for themselves. What a waste! What a stupid reason to die, at the chance of gunning down Rena the Renegade so they could take her place as the infamous fastest gun alive.

Her gang on the other hand liked the bigger towns, more to do, more trouble to get into. Not to mention, they practically egged people into calling her out. To them, small towns were boring, too easily conquered.

She was aware of a group of men down the road. They were obviously in a heated discussion about her as they kept pointing her direction. No reason in worrying about it, she will find out soon enough. No doubt they were the men that ran this town and were trying to decide what to do about her and her gang.

She sat quietly as Holly opened the door and walked out. Holly leaned against the opposite railing, unaware that anyone else was around. She ran her hand through her golden-red hair.

Holly was never up this early. The couch in her fathers room was too hard, she did not get much sleep last night. Holly turned to go back into the Inn when she was startled to see the Renegade sitting on the other side of the porch, calmly leaning back in the chair with her boots perched on the railing. The Renegade did not look as menacing dressed in a clean white shirt and dark pants without her hat and duster. She has broad shoulders with a narrow waist. The pants fit snugly and the shirt is tucked in. She looked so much younger now that the dust lines were removed. Her hair, coal black, flowed freely down her shoulders. It appeared to have the texture of black silk. Holly quickly glanced down having realized that she had been staring.

"Good Morning." Pause. "How did you sleep?" Holly glanced back up. They were guests after all. Right? She desperately wanted to know how the beautiful person before her came to be the outlaw Renegade.

"Good Morning." The Renegade replied with a smile.

The Renegade was about to say that she would have slept better if she had had some company but a motion caught her attention out of the corner of her eye. The group apparently elected a spokesman and headed her direction.

"Good Morning, uh .. Miss Halston, is it?" came from the spokesperson. The man waited for a confirmation that never came.

Now nervous. "Uh, my name is Matt Westley. I’m the town Mayor. We have a friendly little town here and don’t want any trouble. Most of these folks are poor and have very little. We have nothing that you’re ... uh ... gang would want." He paused to gauge her reaction. Nothing.

"We would like you to leave. The Sheriff will be back tomorrow and we sent for the Marshall. The Marshall will be here in two days." He continued.

In one fluid movement, the Renegade gracefully got to her feet and slowly descended the stairs. The slowness almost convinced the Mayor that she had not heard a word when she turned and faced him. She stretched to her full height towering over him. Her blue eyes turned icy which sent chills down his spine. ‘This was definitely a mistake.’ he thought.

In a sickening sweet voice, The Renegade responded. "The nearest Marshall is in Fort Worth which is a four day ride. If you had sent someone after him, my lookout would have gunned him down. As for your Sheriff, well I’m not worried about him. Now, unless one of you ..." She glared at the group of men. ".. are going to face me down, we have nothing further to discuss."

Knowing their bluff had failed miserably. Their shoulders slumped as they walked away, after being dismissed. They were farmers not gun fighters. Even if they were gun fighters, according to the Renegade’s reputation no one was faster than her.

Holly was totally in awe at the effect that the Renegade had on the group of men. She totally deflated those huge egos.

"Rena! I’m calling you out!" It was Billie. He was in the street. His face was darkened with bruises. "I’ve heard about how fast you are but I’ve never actually seen it. I think I’m faster!"

The Renegade’s face was calm but serious. She quietly strolled out to the middle of the street keeping Billie in her peripheral vision. She planted her feet swaying her hips slightly to center her weight, then stared back at Billie with a huge smile on her face, taunting him. The mocking expression on her face indicated that she knew the outcome of this showdown and had nothing to fear. She waited for him to make the first move. Meanwhile a number of her gang appeared on the porch. Holly was disgusted to hear them arguing over who gets to keep Billie’s boots. In her peripheral vision, Holly saw the towns men watching intently. The air was filled with the tension. Holly was afraid to breathe as it might cause a chain reaction.

Billie’s face and hands began to twitch. That huge grin on her face was unnerving. She was content to wait for him to make the first move. Sweat began to bead on his face. Maybe this was not a good idea. Well its too late for those thoughts, its now or never.... He reached for his gun. Just as he felt the smooth welcome handle, he heard the shot and felt his chest explode. Damn! That was fast!

Holly watched the Renegade but just saw a blur as the Renegade pulled her gun and a shot was fired. Holly just witnessed her first gun fight. Billie, a stunned look on his face, now covered in blood, fell to the ground. Holly had no question that the shot was fatal. He was dead. As a pool of blood puddled around Billie, the world started swaying, everything started going black.

Light was coming through the darkness, Holly found herself warmly wrapped in powerful arms. She shook her head trying to clear the fog. Someone was setting her down on her own bed. To her disappointment the warm and powerful arms left her. Her head was throbbing. After a couple minutes, the Renegade was back with a wet washcloth which she pressed against Holly’s forehead.

"You fainted, hit your head on the way down. Feel better?" The Renegade asked.

She had never fainted before. Holly merely nodded the yes. She was felt a bit self conscience at having been carried into the Inn. She reached a tentative hand and felt the lump on her forehead. An awkward silence. "Uh Miss Halston ..."

The Renegade rolled her eyes. "Call me Rena."

"Okay, Rena ..."


"What did Billie mean by ‘You’re not the only one that gets to have all the fun?’" They had all looked at her like she was the answer to a riddle.

"He had a filthy mouth. He assumed that you were going to stay in your room last night ..... with me." The Renegade nonchalantly watched for Holly’s response.

Now a really awkward silence. Holly felt a blush creeping up her face. Did the Renegade seriously ask her to stay the night? She had thought the Renegade was just teasing her. She seem to be in a talking mood and there was so much that Holly wanted to know. "Rena ... "


"How many men have you killed?" How many of the stories about the infamous Rena the Renegade were true?

How many times have I answered this question? The Renegade paused then sighed. "I lost count a long time ago." It was the truth, the Renegade didn’t keep count but she did remember every single one. At this the Renegade left the room.

Holly mentally kicked herself. ‘What a stupid question.’ It obviously angered the Renegade. She sat there lost in her thoughts. She could not reconcile this woman that shot someone down one minute and then the next minute oooh sooo gently carried her after she had fainted.

Most of the town folk were quick to point out that Holly was engaged to the "Sheriff" of Poteet. The Sheriff doubled as a blacksmith. He made a trip to the iron mines to get more iron ore, expected back tomorrow. As far as Rena could find out, he was Sheriff in name only, just to settle disputes among the locals when such situations arose. He did not carry a gun and she surmised he wouldn’t know what to do with it if he did.

She also learned that the town entertainment consisted of Holly doing a bit as a storyteller in the evenings. It was apparent that Holly had many admirers in this town.

Holly was serving them lunch in the dining room, when the Renegade’s features froze and her head cocked to one side. She heard a rider off in the distance coming full speed towards town. "We have trouble." She quickly stood and headed to the door with her men at her heels.

The rider’s speed did not slow as he entered the town. The Renegade and her men met him in the middle of the street as he came barreling to a skidding stop. "Posse" A breath. "... its about a days ride ..." Another breath. ".. headed this way." The Renegade’s eyes narrowed and searched the horizon as if she would be able to see them from inside the town.

She quickly reviewed the options in her mind. If they stayed in the town and battled it out, many of the towns folks would die in the process. It would be a blood bath. She saw the look in their eyes. That posse was out for blood. The deal had gone bad, many of the towns folks had gotten in the way of the robbery. Her gang had lost two good men.

"Okay, everyone keep it quiet. I don’t want the town to know what’s going on. Charlie, Benjamin, Go get the horses saddled." A pause. "All of the horses. I don’t want to give that posse a chance for fresh horses." "Frank, Get water and supplies." A pause, then to the rider. "Thomas, grab something to eat." Turning her attention to the horizon again. "Jose, take the lookout position. Report anything suspicious. We should be ready to go within the hour."

"Rena, we going to take someone with us?" Jose asked.

"Yeah, we have to end this." She saw it in the eyes of the posse, they would give up their lives to get her; but would they give up the life of a innocent young girl?

"Its going to be the red head." Jose said mischievously as a statement more than a question.

The Renegade suppressed a smile, knowing what Jose was implying. She did not answer him but the twinkle in her eyes gave him the answer that he was looking for. Taking Holly with them would be a shock for the gentle woman but she should be safe. The posse would not dare follow, if it threaten her life. Besides to her surprise, she was looking forward to spending more time with her, away from the town.

"Tell the boys - hands off! The first one to lay a hand on her will wish they could trade places with Billie."

The Renegade found Holly in the kitchen, helping to clean up the dishes from breakfast. Both Holly and the cook jumped as the Renegade stormed into the kitchen. The Renegade put on her stone face. "We are leaving. You’re coming with us."

Holly noticed the Renegade was wearing her hat and duster. "Hey, I’m flattered and all but I can’t come with you ...." Flustered Holly was just saying the first things that come to mind but was cut off by the Renegade.

"You have no choice." She grabbed Holly’s arm and dragged her out the kitchen down the hall to her room.

The Renegade’s hand was like an ungiving metal ring around her wrist. The strength with which she easily pulled Holly out of the kitchen left no room for argument.

"You can pack one set of extra clothes and a couple personal items, that’s it. We don’t have a lot of room. Do you have riding clothes? You should change into riding clothes." The Renegade stated this very business like - no discussion required.

Holly regained her composure a little. "Why ..."

The Renegade interrupted her. "No time to explain. Get your things now or leave them."

Holly tried again, she needed time to think. "Then get out so I can change."

The Renegade looked at the windows, an easy escape. "Change, now or go as you are."

Holly went to the dresser and pulled out two English style riding outfits and tossed them to the bed. She rifled through the drawers and pulled out a couple more items and laid them on the bed. She reached behind her to start unbuttoning the dress when she felt the Renegade standing right behind her. She gasped softly.

"I’ll get that." The Renegade quickly unbuttoned the dress, she noticed her fingers were shaking. Damn, not a good sign for a gun fighter. Holly froze, not so much as breathing.

The Renegade stepped back just as quickly. She went and faced towards the door to give the woman some privacy, keeping her senses alert for any hostile reaction from her hostage. Holly noticed the gesture and quickly changed.

"Okay." Holly stated weakly, feeling as if she should be putting up more of a fight. It was very difficult to deny the Renegade’s commanding tone, even if she could. The Renegade had pulled her back here like a rag doll.

Holly was dressed in dark brown English riding slacks tucked into black riding boots with a conservative beige shirt. The Renegade grabbed up the items on the bed and stuffed them into her saddlebag. "Lets go."

"How long will we .. uh .. I be gone? I have to say good-bye to my father." The realization of what was about to happen hit her.

Rena thought this over. Absolutely not. There’s no telling how the father would react. He would probably try to stop them. For some reason, Rena did not think she would be able to kill him if it came to that. She expected to have Holly tucked back into her own bed within a week but she could not answer the question as that would give the hostage threat away as a bluff. Rena made the mistake of looking down into those trusting sea-green eyes that were waiting for some type of response.

The Renegade pulled her gun and brought it up forcing Holly to acknowledge it. "If he tries to stop us ....." The Renegade waited. Holly stared wide eyed at the gun, nodding in comprehension.

They went into the Inn lobby where her father was looking over some books. He glanced up to see the gun pointed in his direction. The Renegade reluctantly released Holly. Holly ran over to her father and hugged him. Hugging his daughter, he never took his eyes off the gun. What had happened?

The Renegade decided it was time to put the cards on the table. "She is coming with us. There’s a posse headed this direction. If they come after us ..." Not wanting to terrify Holly, she changed her approach. "If they leave us alone, Holly will be free to go home. Its up to you to stop them."

Holly finally understood what was going on, the knowledge let her relax. Not knowing let her imagination run rampant. She had concocted the worst possible scenarios. ‘The big bad gang needed to hide behind her from the posse.’ She almost giggled at the thought. For some unfounded reason, she felt that Rena would protect her. She looked into her fathers eyes which were filled with worry. "I’ll be Okay. Don’t worry about me. Just take care of that posse."

Her father was stunned by everything that was happening. There was a gun pointed at him. How could he stop this piece of trash from taking his daughter.

"Lets go. Now!" The Renegade demanded.

The force of the command made the father and daughter release their embrace.

Her father glared at the Renegade. "If you harm a hair on her head ... I’ll spend the rest of my life hunting you down."

The Renegade just about said ‘Get in line’ but held her tongue, keeping a stone face.

Holly stared at her father. She had never heard such anger from her father before. She squeezed him one more time then let go.

The Renegade took the reins of one of the horses. "Up" she commanded to Holly.

Nervously, Holly looked up at the horse then at Rena. "I can’t ride. I fall off."

Irritated Rena asked. "You have riding outfits but you can’t ride?"

"I tried to learn but after the first time I fell off, I decided I liked walking much better."

Rena paused in thought. It would be hard on her horse but they could ride double; although it would be easier to keep an eye on her. "Okay. You ride with me." She handled the reins of the spare horse to one of her men.

Rena went over to her horse and cupped her hands, offering Holly a leg up. Holly put her foot in the cupped hands and reached for the saddle expecting to have to pull herself up on the tall horse. Instead, it was as if she had stepped on a spring. She went sailing up and onto the horses back, almost going off the other side. Rena patted her leg which Holly correctly recognized as a request to move her legs forward so Rena could use the stirrups. In a smooth motion, Rena was sitting behind her on the horse. One long arm reached around Holly’s waist resettling them together into the saddle. The other long arm picked up the reins.

She glanced around. Her men were ready. They had an anxious look, ready to get back on the road, ready to find a more exciting place than this small town. She could feel the energy flowing around them.

Raising her voice to get the attention of the towns folks standing around. "Just remember, if we see a posse following ... you will never see Holly alive."

The scenery moved by quickly. At first Holly busied herself with watching the scenery go by, trying to memorize as much as possible in case she had to find her way back. Feeling her muscles ache from trying to lean forward, she gradually leaned back into the soft body behind her. Her muscles were immediately thankful. Rena didn’t seem to notice.

The constant rhythm of riding was lulling her to sleep. She felt her head drooping. The arm around her waist tightened pulling her closer to the soft warmth behind her. At a sudden loss of movement, she awoke with a start, she had fallen asleep leaning against Rena. Rena chuckled behind her. It was dark, they were stopping for the night.

Rena fought the grin that took over her face. ‘I don’t know anyone that can fall asleep on a horse. That’s not true, I’ve done it before but that was after days of no sleep.’ Strange, while she held the sleeping form, she felt a fierce protectiveness envelop her.

Rena jumped off the horse then motioned Holly to get off. Rena caught her as she tried to maneuver off the horse. Rena let go to immediate grab her again as Holly legs gave out. Out of instinct, Holly reached up and grabbed the powerful arms. Their eyes met for a fraction of a second before Rena looked away, not before Holly caught the half smile. "Easy does it." Rena whispered so only Holly could hear as she scanned the rest of the men and the spot they were going to camp in.

A bit louder to the men. "Okay, you all know what to do. Lets setup camp."

Rena retrieved two plates of beans and handed one to Holly. They sat in silence while they ate.

Rena broke the silence. "I hear you are a storyteller. How about telling us with a story?" The rough talk of the men that was being carried on over the campfire died out waiting for the response. She had heard the men’s stories about a hundred times each. Everyone was looking forward to new material.

Holly noticed that this was a genuine request not a command by her captor. That warmed her inside. "Okay, let me think, oh I know a good one" She started the tale which held captive the entire campsite. At the end, they all broke out laughing at the unexpected ending. Rena sat back and watched how Holly had caught the attention of this unruly bunch. Holly glance over at her and she smiled back. The men got two more stories out of her before Holly declined anymore, always leave them wanting more she thought.

Rena went to the saddles to retrieve two bedrolls. She spread them near the campfire. Holly watched as Rena removed her hat and duster. She folded the duster inside out and laid it at the end of one of the bedrolls. Then she motioned for Holly to join her.

"Hold your right arm out." Rena commanded.

Holly complied. Rena pulled a pair of handcuffs out of her back pocket snapping one on Holly’s wrist then the other one on her own left wrist. Holly’s eyes went wide with surprise. "This is so you don’t wander off in the middle of the night." Rena looked down into those sea-green eyes, that looked back at her full of trust and innocence. "Why aren’t you afraid?"

"You wouldn’t let anything happen to me, would you?" Spoken more as a statement than a question but the pleading eyes still waited for the answer.

Rena looked at the ground and chuckled shaking her head. She terrorized the entire state of Texas but this girl thought of her as some guardian angel? When she looked back up there was a troubled look in those sea-green eyes. Turning serious she said, "Do as you’re told and you’ll be okay. Lie down." Rena waved to the bedrolls.

Holly laid on her side facing Rena as Rena laid down on her back using the folded duster as a pillow. Rena pulled the blanket over the both of them. It may be hot during the day but it gets cold at night.

Holly longed to prop her head up in her hand but the handcuffs prevented this without putting Rena’s arm in a weird position. "Where did you get the handcuffs?"

"This Sheriff tried to use them on me. Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t watching my right hand while he cuffed my left wrist. I cold cocked him. Thought the handcuffs might come in handy." Actually he was trying to look down her shirt - he was very distracted.

After a long silence. "Rena?" whispered.


"Is it possible ... Uh ... I mean ... uh ... How do ..." A big sigh. How to word this? "How do two women ....?"

Where did that come from?! Rena rolled her head to one side to study the face of the squirming woman, trying to surmise where this was headed. Maybe she’s not that young after all. While she contemplated her answer Holly’s fidgeting got worse. Holly berated herself. She could feel her face turning a deep red, thank goodness it was dark. She wished she could dig a hole, and crawl right into but the handcuffs would prevent that.

Rena realized the anxiety she was inducing but could not help herself. "Yes." She smiled gently and said softly "Go to sleep Holly. We have another long day tomorrow." With that she rolled her head back up to look up at the stars.

Holly realized she avoided the second question but she was not going to ask again. She rolled onto her back and pulled the blanket around her.

As was her morning ritual, upon wakening Rena extended her senses to take in the entire camp before opening her eyes. It had saved her on a few occasions. Her senses told her that all was well. As she brought her senses back around her, she was immediately confused by the feeling of being snug and warm. She flexed her hand to find a soft round mound. As the body under her hand shifted, her eyes flew open as she realized someone was laying nearly on top of her and her hand was resting on the back of an upper thigh caressing a cheek. Where am I?! Who am I with?!

During the night, in her sleep, Holly inched her way towards the warmth. Holly’s head was pillowed on her shoulder with Holly’s free hand resting on her stomach. Rena’s arm, handcuffed to Holly’s, encircled and rested on the back of her thigh.

Somewhat relieved that she knew where she was and who she was with, Rena relaxed. She felt so comfortable in this warm embrace she did not want to move. The thought of her men finding them like this, forced her to disentangle herself with her captive. The men would never let her live it down, and they would tease Holly endlessly. Reaching around with her free arm she unlocked the handcuff then gently extracted herself, so as to not wake Holly. Sitting up she looked down at the most adorable and precious face she had ever seen. She looks like such an innocent when she’s awake, but now she looks positively angelic.

Rena stirred the fire and laid more wood on it, as she watched that angel like face sleep. She was tempted to crawl back into the bedroll and resume her previous position. Where did that come from? What is wrong with me? She was never one to sleep in. What was she doing bringing that one out here? She does not belong out here, she is going to get hurt. That thought sent a cold chill down her spine. Not if she could help it. Where did that come from? She has only known her a few days. Yet, she felt a connection there she could not describe or account for. She put a pot of water on for coffee then out to check the perimeter.

The Renegade walked around the perimeter of the campsite. Confident that everything was as it should be she returned to camp.

Upon returning to the campsite, she saw Thomas giving Holly a cup of coffee. Smiling, she wondered how long it would be before Holly had the entire gang eating out of her palms.

The posse rode into town, reminiscent of the Renegade’s gang several days ago. The ground shook. The leader was Texas Ranger Douglas. Dark serious eyes shown from the handsome face. Dark hair with a matching goatee framed his face. He scanned the town for a sheriff’s office but found none. There were numerous occasions where Douglas had tried to capture the aloof Rena the Renegade, but this was the closest that he had ever come. They almost had her when she double back and rode down that river where Douglas lost the trail for an entire day. He would go down in the history books as the most famous Texas Ranger: The Texas Ranger that arrested Rena the Renegade.

People emerged out the buildings, after a few short minutes it appeared the whole town was in the streets. They were all talking at once. Douglas looked for a spokesperson.

He was tired. The last thing he needed was to get involved in the problems of this small town. He had nearly lost the Renegade’s trail but they were back on it and gaining on the gang.

"Hi, my name is Matt Wesley. I’m the mayor of this town." He held out his hand but it was ignored.

"Did you see Rena Halston’s gang come riding through here?" Douglas demanded.

Matt was taken back by the manners of this man. Were we not on the same side? "Uh .. yes. They took one of our folks with them. Said they would kill Holly if the posse continued to follow."

"How long ago did they leave?" Continued the Ranger.

"We are mighty fond of Holly. We can’t let you follow them." Matt replied simply. Ignoring the question.

The Ranger glared at Matt. "Who is going to stop us?" At this the town folk took a step back. The Ranger realized that maybe he was being too harsh. "We’ll bring her back safely. What did you say her name was?"

A pause. "Holly Franks. She has red hair, green eyes. They left yesterday, a couple hours past high noon." Matt hoped he had made the right decision in helping this Ranger. Not that the Ranger needed his help, he was sure to pick up the trail right outside of town.

"Where can I get fresh horses?" At this the town started laughing. Matt informed him that the Renegade took all of the towns horses with her. Douglas was surprised that the town thought this was amusing.

The Ranger turned on his horse to address the rest of the posse. "Take a break. Get fresh supplies, we leave in an hour."

This time Rena mounted her horse first, then lowered her arm to help Holly up. Holly was amazed at how easily Rena swung her onto the back of the horse. "It will be easier to sleep back there. You can lean up against my back." Rena smirked.

Holly was taken aback for a moment by the playful comment. Then she playfully swatted Rena’s back. To hang on, Holly dropped her hands to Rena’s hips, tentatively holding on, just resting her hands on Rena’s thighs. A brief feel of metal drew Holly’s eyes down. Her fingers were almost touching the holstered gun.

While it was true that the gang had kidnapped her, forcing her to come against her will, still she felt completely safe. If she managed to get the gun, what then? Would it be enough just to have the gun in her possession, point it at Rena? What if it accidentally went off? Oh God! Could she make them take her home if she had the gun? Would she have to use it? Didn’t she owe it to Poteet to try? Why was a posse after Rena? The posse only wanted to bring her to justice right? Was she standing in the way of justice? This was maddening. She had to try right? She saw how fast Rena was. She was only going to get one try.

Holly grabbed the gun almost falling off the back of the horse by forgetting to hang on. Rena wearing a stone face slowly stopped the horse and turned around in the saddle. "Be careful that gun has a hair trigger. It can go off just by dropping it." A pause. "What are you planning to do with it?"

"I want to go home." Holly tried to make it simple.

"All in due time." Rena remarked matter-of-factly.

"I could shoot you then take your horse." Holly tried a bluff.

A mischievous smile curved up Rena’s face. "You would have to ride by yourself."

Rena turned back around in the saddle and nudged the horse to start again slowly. "Keep it." She called over her shoulder.

Holly laid the gun in her lap. Well that didn’t work. What is she going to do now? She chuckled to herself. Rena called her bluff, there was nothing she could do. She was not going to shoot anyone. She slid the gun back into the holster. Rena took a deep breath and released it. I’ve never done that before, turning my back on a gun?

After riding for some time, Holly thought perhaps some conservation could pass the time. "Why is the posse after you?"

"We robbed their bank." There was no reason to mention how many people got hurt.

"That’s why you needed the information ... from the banker’s wife?" Why couldn’t she stop thinking about that. The thought of two women together was intriguing and yet ... annoying. The thought of Rena with another woman was intriguing ... with the Bankers wife it was annoying. What? I don’t even know the banker’s wife so why annoying. What would she have done if she was the banker’s wife? Rena must have made the first move. I wonder how she did it? Rena is beautiful. I’m sure she could have almost anyone, man or woman.

"Yes." I forgot she had heard about that. Wonder why she brought that up. So that’s where those questions came from last night. She’s just curious.

The single word response brought Holly back into the ‘conversation’. "How long have they been following you?" She is not very talkative. This is like pulling teeth.

"Nine days." Not feeling comfortable with this line of questioning, Rena changed the subject. "When are you and the Sheriff getting married?"

How did she know about that? "We haven’t set a date. My father arranged it." Now it was Holly’s turn to be uncomfortable.

"You don’t sound convinced that its a good idea."

"He’s a good guy. He does well for himself. Everyone likes him." Trying to sound more convincing. "He is actually a blacksmith. There’s not much call for a Sheriff in Poteet." Then quietly, "I’m glad he was out of town. He might have tried to stop you."

"Yeah, its a good thing he was out of town." A pause. "Do you think he will come after you?"

"I don’t know. .... Maybe." Would he risk everything to come after her? They grew up together in that small town. They were friends.

By mid-morning they reached the foot of the hills. It was going to take most of the day on foot to reach the cliffs. Everyone dismounted and started climbing the narrow paths that lead upwards.

Rena led the way and Charlie pulled up the rear. Holly walked behind Benjamin. She judged him to be about her age. "Where are you from?" She asked him.


What was it about these outlaw types that didn’t like to elaborate? "What’s it like in Kansas?"

"Fields of wheat for as far as the eyes can see. And you can see a long ways in Kansas. No hills, it’s flat land."

"Do you miss it?"

"No. There’s nothing to do there. You work from dawn to dusk, go to bed and then do it all over the next day."

Sounds kind of like Poteet. One day was pretty much like the next. "How did you meet Rena?"

At the memory, the young man smiled broadly. "Her gang rode into town to take the bank. I was in the bank when it happened. She strolled right over to that Mr. Chamberlain and pulled him across his desk. He turned white as a ghost." Benjamin chuckled at the memory.

"She was in there and out before the town knew what was happening. The posse lost her trail right off the start. My father sent me to the next town over to help out with some of our family there. While there, I saw Frank, who I recognized from the bank robbery, ride in to check out the town, they were going to hit it the next day. I told Frank I would keep my mouth shut if I could ride with them. Frank blindfolded me and took me to see Rena. She was furious." A hurt look came over Benjamin’s face. "She said that I was too young. Told Frank she was not a school mum. Asked Frank if he had lost his mind. Told everyone the next time a snot nose kid shows up at her campfire there was going to be hell to pay. " Benjamin sighed. "But she finally gave in. Said we would see how it went."

Thoughtfully Benjamin started again. "I knew I had to prove myself to her. So I did the next day. I rode with them to take the bank. After the job, a man came around the corner, he was going to shoot her in the back, but I didn’t let that happen. He was my first kill. After that I was just like one of the gang."

After several more hours of talking to some of the gang, Holly caught up to Rena. "Benjamin told me how he joined your gang. That was pretty impressive the way that he saved your life." Rena rolled her eyes, then turned away not saying a word. The curiosity got the better of Holly. "He DID save your life?"

In a low voice Rena recounted the bank robbery. "Benjamin defied my orders, he was not suppose to be there. Not recognizing him at first, I almost shot him when he joined us during the robbery. It was an easy job. We were in the clear, preparing to mount the horses, when a farmer came round a corner carrying a hammer. Benjamin was young and scared. He immediately reacted upon seeing the man, not realizing what was in the man’s hands. Benjamin’s shot brought the whole town down on us. He froze, not moving but to look from his gun to the slain man. I jumped on my horse, spun it around and swung him up behind me. Shots were being fired, we barely made it out of that town." Rena paused catching her breath. Holly remained silent. This was the first time that Rena had really talked to her, shared something of her life, Holly wanted it to continue.

Rena shook her head remembering. "Benjamin lost his dinner all over me, him, and the horse. I knew of a stream nearby so I broke away from the gang and took him there to cleanup. Everyone reacts differently to their first kill." Like my first kill ... I had a completely different reaction. "It changes everything."

Rena was tough with her men. Holly struggled to see what it must have been like at that river with this tough leader after he had ... um ... shared his dinner with her. "I guess he was in big trouble for going against your orders?"

"He learned his lesson the hard way. There was nothing that I could have added to that."

"Has he .. uh ..." Holly couldn’t bring herself to ask the question.

"Yeah. He does not hesitate when its needed. The second comes much easier." At this Rena frowned. Benjamin had learned to kill at an early age. Holly saw the expression and wondered what Rena was thinking but dared not ask.

They reached the caves below the cliffs just prior to nightfall. Tomorrow, they would have a good view of the valleys below. If a posse is still after them, they would know well ahead of time. It would be difficult for a posse to come after them uphill. This was an area that the Renegade knew.

The Renegade made a torch out of some rags and a branch. She lit it as she entered the caves. Curious, Holly followed behind her. The cave was cool, dark with a lingering moisture in the air. Just inside the entrance, both froze at the sound of a low eerie growl. The Renegade drew her gun. "Holly, get out." The Renegade whispered. The Renegade could hear the slow agitated breathing which she used to focus in on the source. The Renegade saw the glowing eyes and heard another low growl as it pounced. All she could really see was the piercing eyes so she hoped her aim was accurate as she managed to fire off two rounds at the moving blur before it was on top of her. The enormous weight of the cat knocked her down. She grabbed its head preventing the sharp teeth from meeting their target. The carnivorous stench coming from the hot breath was overwhelming. She felt the claws sink into her shoulders tearing her flesh while the back feet pinned her down. The Renegade’s muscles were shaking from the strain. Options rushed through her mind, there was a knife in her boot but how could she reach it?

Holly backed out of the cave. She turned to the men with a trembling voice "There’s something in there." The gang rushed in as they heard two shots. The cat was too close to the Rena, they dropped the guns and pulled knives. The five of them stabbed at the mountain lion above Rena until it went limp. They pulled the mountain lion off, pulling the claws from around her shoulders. Her eyes were open but she didn’t move except for the fast heavy breathing. The sleeves of her duster were shredded from where the teeth had continuously snapped at the body below. She lay there just breathing for a minute, blinking as if she could not believe what just happened.

Holly was right behind the men, waiting for the fight to end then ran to Rena’s side. "Are you Okay?"

"Yeah, I think so." A breath. "Just need to catch my breath." Rena replied.

The men didn’t know what to do. One of them broke the silence. "Damn Rena, you were almost kitty food." At this Rena gave them a crooked smile and they all started laughing.

Slowly she sat up, wincing from the pain in her shoulders.

"Benjamin, Get me a canteen and some bandages. Everyone else get out." Holly snapped. Not waiting for permission, she unbuttoned Rena’s duster and gently lifted it over her shoulders. Rena clenched her jaws from the pain. The arms of the duster was shredded. Rena’s shirt was not much better. The back of the duster and her shirt were covered in blood. Benjamin returned with the items, then he was told to get out.

She unbuttoned the top of Rena’s shirt then moved behind her to move it off her shoulders. She started cleaning the claw marks with water from the canteen. Rena silently wondered how it happened that Holly was now ordering her men around. "You know, that was the perfect opportunity to grab a horse and escape. Everyone’s attention was on me and the cat. You would have been half way down the mountain before anyone would have noticed that you were gone."

Holly was stunned at the idea of taking advantage of a situation like that. "I couldn’t leave you ... anyone like that. You needed help." She frowned and shook her head at such an absurd idea.

"Rena, some of these need stitches. I don’t know how to do that." Holly felt rather helpless.

"Jose knows how to do it." Out of this bunch, Jose was the only one that she really trusted. Charlie was a thorn in her side, the others were followers. It didn’t matter who they followed.

"I’ll be right back." Holly softly patted her arm as she got up to go get Jose.

While Jose was stitching her up, Rena thought about Holly. She was being held against her will, yet, she immediately jumped in to take care of Rena’s cuts almost protectively. Curious, Holly did not appear to hold ill will towards her or her men. ‘She doesn’t belong here. What was I thinking in bringing her?’ "Jose."


"If something happens to me, make sure she gets home, safe. Swear it."

Jose chuckled. "You’re not going anywhere. A mountain lion couldn’t even stop you." A pause. "But if it will make you feel better, I swear. You know, Rena ..."


"She could be a big help. All of the guys love her. She brightens up the campfire."

"What are you saying?" Not liking where this was going.

"What if she wants to stay with us? We don’t have to take her back, right?"

"She’s not a pet. She does not belong here. She’s not like us, she is full of good and innocence. This life would destroy her. She won’t want to stay anyway." There’s no reason to even have this conversation.

Holly retrieved the bedrolls and Rena’s extra shirt. After Jose was finished, she helped Rena change her shirt, lifting the fresh shirt up and over her shoulders. She tried to avert her eyes but they seem to have a mind of their own. Luckily Rena was too exhausted to notice. She took in the perfect breasts, slim waist, rippling abdomen and bulging biceps. What is wrong with me?

A shiver went through Rena which caught Holly’s attention. "Are you Okay?"

"Cold ... lost a lot of blood. Tell them to get a fire going in here."

Holly was covered in goosebumps but it had nothing to do with being cold.

After the fire was built, Holly spread out a bed roll next to it. The second bedroll was laid on top of the other bedroll to make the bed softer against Rena’s wounds. She motioned for Rena to lie down. Rena only hesitated a moment, she was exhausted, after all its not everyday that she confronts a mountain lion. Once she was settled, Holly crouched down next to here, Rena could see that there was something that she wanted to ask so Rena just waited.

"You don’t have to worry about me running off. Where would I go? I don’t know how to make it back to Poteet." Rena nodded acknowledging that she wasn’t worried about it. "Uhmm, ... would it be warmer if I lay next to you?" Okay, I said it, there, its too late to retract it.

Rena fought hard to keep a smile off her face. A couple days ago, she would have had some fun at the young woman’s expense but something changed. She wanted Holly to feel as comfortable around her as she felt around Holly. "Yeah, that would be better." Holly laid down on her side putting an arm around Rena’s stomach. Holly got as close to Rena as she could without putting pressure on Rena’s wounds. Rena felt warm and cared for. She chuckled to herself, after my wounds heal, I wonder if I will be able to find another mountain lion. Within minutes the warm embrace whisked them both to sleep.

Holly heard the sounds of the men moving about preparing breakfast. She did not want to budge. Her position was soft, warm and comfortable. All of a sudden both eyes flew open. Her face was resting in the crook of Rena’s neck, Rena’s cheek rested on her forehead. She had one arm around Rena’s stomach, while Rena had an arm around her back, hand resting on her thigh. One of her legs was draped over one of Rena’s.

Embarrassed she slowly tried to extract herself but as she did so Rena, still asleep, brought her arm up around Holly’s waist tightening the embrace. At that moment Holly forgot her embarrassment and marveled at how good it felt to be held in Rena’s embrace. For a moment she snuggled deeper into the embrace, she was consumed with such a sense of contentment, peace, and .... She couldn’t put words to it. A thought occurred to her, what Rena would think? It jolted her out of her haze. She waited till Rena relaxed her grip then quickly extracted herself. What is it with me? God, what would Rena think if she had woken?

Rena’s eyes fluttered open not quite sure what had waken her, but feeling a sense of loss. She normally did not sleep that soundly or this late in the morning.

Holly sat beside her. "I’ll get you some coffee after I take care of business." With that Holly headed for the cave entrance.

Holly sat next to Jose at the mouth of the cave looking down the side of the hill, the view was breathtaking. Funny, for a captive, her spirit soared higher than the surrounding trees. She felt a freedom from which she could not describe or explain. "You must have some good stories to tell." She prompted Jose.

"Oh yeah, do I ever." He smiled trying to recall one of the better ones. "There was the time we ran into Artemis’s Banditos."

"You mean Artemis Cortez!" Holly asked in astonishment.

Jose chuckled at her enthusiasm. "Yeah, the one and only." Jose knew that he had her. "We got too close to the Mexican border, when they circled us. We were pinned in, outnumbered 10 to 1. Artemis, himself, was there. We knew we were dead men, but not Rena, she wasn’t going out without a fight." He paused to see if he still had an audience.

"And ... what happened?" Holly asked anxiously.

"Artemis ordered us to throw down our weapons and get off our horses. The horses were worth good money so he didn’t want them to get shot. Rena rose up in her saddle telling him that he would have to personally remove her from her saddle." Jose chuckled again. The admiration was evident in his eyes. "Artemis kicked his horse, breaking through his men going right up to Rena. It was the weirdest thing I ever saw. They stared at each other for what seemed like an eternity, then all of a sudden he started laughing. Rena smiled wickedly at him. It was as if they had communicated without speaking a word. He said ‘No need for that, come with me.’ Artemis took a real shine to Rena. They took us back to his hideout, it was an old fortress. We camped out in the confines of the fortress. Rena went with Artemis into the main building. We didn’t see much of her for a couple of days." Jose paused to catch his breath.

"Well, on that third day the banditos gathered together to make another run. Rena and Artemis went with them. The rest of us were not allowed." His face clouded over as if in pain. "When Rena came back, she was white as a ghost. That night she came to our tents to tell us we were leaving the next day, one way or another."

"Did she say what happened?" Holly asked concern filled her voice.

"No. I heard stories about Artemis’ banditos, though. Mostly, they loot travelers but every once in a while they hit a town. From the amount of loot they brought back, I surmised that they hit a town. They burn everything to the ground, killing everything in sight ... men, women, children ... makes no difference to them." He paused a minute thoughtfully. "Rena is not like that. She goes after the wealthy, and then only after their money. I don’t know what she saw that day but there was a haunting look in her eyes."

Holly had heard the stories too. "So what happened next?" Holly wanted to know how this ended.

"The next day, we put our stuff together ready to leave. Rena came out of the main building followed by Artemis. Artemis was yelling at her ‘No one leaves here alive.’. Rena turned around glaring at him. I thought they were going to draw right then. Rena broke the silence first offering him a wager. She challenged him ‘Lets have a contest, I win, me and my men are leaving.’ Artemis retorted back with ‘What do I get if I win?’ Rena just smiled real big and said ‘Whatever you want’. Artemis happily agreed stating that he got to pick the contest. He chose a whip contest." Jose started laughing. "No one is better with a whip than Rena!"

It took a few minutes for Jose to settle down. "Just a minute my mouth is dry, let me get a drink of water." Jose started to rise, but Holly jumped up ran over to get the canteen and brought it back. Holly patiently waited for Jose to take a drink.

"Artemis forced one of the servant women from the main building to stand along the wall. He put matches in the wood around her body. The contest was to see who could light the most matches with a whip without hitting the woman. Artemis lit 8 out 10, marking the woman twice. Rena lit all 10! I’ve never seen anyone so angry. He yelled ‘Get Out’ then stomped off into that main building." Jose smiled a broad smile at the memory.

"If Artemis had won, what did he get?" Holly’s curiosity was getting the better of her.

"We never found out. But I can tell you, we were glad, for her sake, that she won." The concern in Jose’s voice was evident.

Rena returned from checking out the cliffs. An uneasy feeling was creeping over her. She could not pinpoint the source but she had learned to trust her instincts. Thomas was on watch. There was a clear view all around them. There’s no way that posse will get near them without being seen. She winced to hear Jose telling the Artemis story. Remembering the conditions of the contest sent a shudder through her. If she lost, she would help Artemis take over Texas. Artemis believed it to be his destiny to form a new country out of Texas. He fashioned himself to be the ruler and make her his Queen.

"Don’t tell me you’re boring Holly with that Artemis story?" Embarrassed Rena quickly tried to think of a how to change the subject, perhaps a different story?

"Oh, Hi." Holly’s face lit up seeing Rena. "That was amazing. What you did with the whip that is."

Rena returned the brilliant smile. "Just got lucky. No sign of the posse. A couple more days, you’ll be home free."

The thought of going home just didn’t seem to excite her. Strange Holly thought.

Rena watched Holly. No sign at all that she was looking forward to going home. I wonder what that’s all about?

Putting aside her own thoughts "Rena, how did you get started?"

Rena smiled as she sat on the log next to Holly, noticing the change in subject. Her face went serious, brows furrowed as she brought back those painful memories. "There was a band of outlaws that attacked my home town of Amarillo. They killed my father. My brother and I organized a posse and went after them. The posse was small compared to the number of the outlaws, so we attacked them little by little, whittling down the numbers. One day, we took care of the last of them."

"Did you go home?" Holly urging her on, not quite sure how that got her to the present.

A big sigh. "No. My brother died at the hands of the outlaws. I couldn’t face my mother. Most of the posse died before it was over. For that matter, I couldn’t face my home town."

"But that wasn’t your fault" Holly interrupted.

"Maybe. I don’t know about that. I kept the fight up until we had every last one of them." A pause. "In the last fight I was hurt pretty bad. A guy named Jesse James took care of me. I joined his gang for a while. His father died by men from the railroad, his gang only robbed trains. I started my own gang soon after that."

"So you have never been back to your hometown?"


Holly gently touched Rena’s forearm. "I think they would understand." Blue eyes searched green to see if there was any insincerity there. She saw none, only concern and worry. Its been a long time since anyone has worried about me.

"Its too late. They would never understand about all the things that I’ve done since then."

A whistle was sounded which caused Rena to stiffen. Her whole composure changed, she was once again the outlaw. Recognizing the whistle, Rena explained "The posse is at the base of the hills."

"I guess you should have taken someone more important to the town, like the mayor." Holly stated somewhat embarrassed that the posse was still following.

Rena put a hand on Holly’s arm and smiled. "I picked the most valuable person from that small town. They probably think they can rescue you. It will be awhile before they get up here." Rena got up to go check out the posse for herself.

Rena, Charlie and Frank were in the cave discussing different strategies for when the posse arrived. Frank was the oldest member of the gang. Rena often went to him for advice. Holly entered the cave with her arms full of bandages and a bowl of water. "I need to change your bandages." Rena nodded but continued her conversation. Holly put the fresh bandages and water behind Rena. She hesitated a moment before walking around to face her, stepping in close between Rena’s legs. Rena was so engrossed in the strategy, she continued her conversation looking around Holly at her men. Innocently, Holly started unbuttoning the top of Rena’s shirt. Rena stopped in mid sentence at the startling realization of what Holly was doing and where she was standing. Rena looked down to the busy fingers, then slowly her eyes traced the hands, arms, shoulders, neck, and face, as if searching for the owner. As blue eyes met green, one dark eyebrow went up, Holly’s mouth dropped open, then she swallowed.

Quickly, Holly stepped around to the back of her. Rena looked around to tell the men to check the perimeter or something but they were gone. Apparently, they had gotten a similar idea. A smile came to her face, that look in Holly’s eyes was priceless. Maybe, just maybe, there was something between them.

Holly’s hands were shaking as she gently slid Rena’s shirt up the front and down the back to give access to the bandages. She felt her heart beating double time in her chest. The effect that Rena has on her from just a single look was incredible.

Rena realized the moment was gone and so sat there enjoying the gentle fingers brushing against her skin. She let her head drop forward, concentrating on the fingers moving across her arms and shoulders.

Holly was amazed at how well the marks were healing. After finishing with the bandages, Holly readjusted her shirt, leaving the front for Rena to button.

"Holly, I want you to stay in here during the fighting, out of sight. Don’t try to go to them. Things get confusing during a fight. They might mistake you for one of my men or my men might mistake you for one of the posse, not to mention the stray bullets. When things die down, we will take you home."

"The posse doesn’t have a chance do they?" Concerned filled Holly’s voice. "They are just ordinary town folk that think they are doing the right thing."

Just then they heard the whistle that meant the posse was coming. Rena attempted to leave but was intercepted by Holly. Holly put her hands flat against Rena’s stomach. "Rena, don’t do this. Those men have families." She pleaded.

No one ever put a hand on Rena, no one dared get in her way. It was different with Holly, she welcomed the physical contact. She pushed these thoughts aside. "Holly, what would you have me do? Turn myself in? I would be at the end of a rope within a week. They came after me, I did not go after them!" Why am I discussing this?

"No! That’s not what I want. But don’t you see? You have become the outlaw that you chased so long ago. That posse is like the one that you put together so long ago." Seeing that she was making some headway she continued. "What if you gave them the money back? Let them know that I am not in danger. Wouldn’t they let us ... you ... leave?" It suddenly hit Holly like a ton of bricks, she did not want to go home. This is what she wanted. She was living an adventure not just listening to it. She pushed these thoughts aside for later consideration.

"I don’t know. That last job went bad, ... people died. They might want more than just the money back."

"Let me talk to them. I can convince them." Those sea-green eyes pleaded with her.

Rena was silent for a couple minutes. It might work. The posse had to be getting tired, Rena was. The posse did not have a good vantage point from with to fight. Many of them would die before it was over. If they realized this, they may settle for the money. "Okay. If they agree, I’ll tell them where they can find the money. Then we ride out. "

Holly headed for the cave entrance but was stopped by a firm grip on her upper arm. "Holly, be careful." Each word slowly and clearly enunciated. After nodding agreement, she was released to go find the posse.

Her men were not going to like this!

"Are you out of your cotton picking mind?" Thomas yelled. ‘Has she lost it.’

"Rena, you’ve never backed down from a fight before. Besides we have the advantage here." came from Charlie. ‘This is it. This is what I’ve been waiting for.’

"They’re right. I don’t see what this deal buys us, .... unless it has something to do with a certain blonde?" Frank grinned.

"No way, we are not giving up the money just for a skirt!" Thomas was outraged.

The others had similar doubts. She was willing to give up the money that had cost them the lives of two gang members. They had the advantage - they had the money, the best advantage point, and a hostage.

Rena glared at Thomas till he dropped his eyes. Try a different approach. "Its only one job. We don’t need it. We will walk away without bloodshed." I should have waited till Jose was finished with the watch. I can count on him. Seeing that she still had not convinced them, she grew tired. "We are giving it up. End of discussion. I’m the lead of this gang, unless someone would like to challenge that."

Thomas was kneeling in the dirt leaning back on his legs. He reached down and nonchalantly scooped up some dirt. He nodded towards Charlie then stood up. "Rena, I don’t see the point in just turning over the money." As she turned her icy cold stare towards him, Thomas tossed the contents of his hand in her face. Charlie yelled "Get her!".

Charlie and Thomas started pounding Rena. She threw several punches but most of them did not connect. One punch connected with Thomas sending him crashing to the ground. The others quickly joined in, in fear of her rage being turned upon them should she get the better of Charlie and Thomas. After several blows to the stomach, head and kidneys, Rena went down. Thomas pulled his gun to finish the task but Charlie stopped him. "We’ll leave her for the posse. Knowing Rena, she will keep them pretty busy so we can get away. The bounty on her head is 10 times more than what we took from that bank. They will be satisfied with bringing her in. Tie her up. Thomas go take care of Jose. He will never go long with this. You others break camp."

The Ranger spotted her first. A lone woman coming through the trees towards them. The woman met the description that he had been given by the town. "Hold your fire."

One man rushed towards the young woman, abruptly stopping short, then continued over to her and gave her an awkward hug. It was her fiancée, the Sheriff. "How did you get away?" he asked. She informed them that she was sent by the gang to work out a deal. They gathered around while she explained the terms. As a final note, she explained that she would stay with the gang until they reached safety. She explained that she had not been hurt nor did she have any reason to believe that she might be if the posse took the money and left.

The Ranger snorted. He had heard that the Renegade had a way with both men and women but didn’t believe it until now. "No deal, we are bringing her in." said the Ranger after she had finished.

"Don’t you mean them." corrected Holly. There was something about the Ranger that she didn’t like.

"Lets just take the money and go home. We’ve been on the trail for longer than I care to remember." said one of the posse. More than half of the men shook their head in agreement.

"Do you think you will be able to get them out of those caves without losing a lot of your men?" Holly asked.

More joined in as they looked up at the cliffs and decided it wasn’t worth it. They agreed to the terms.

After Holly left, the Ranger regarded the Sheriff. "How’s it feel to be outdone by a woman?"

"What kind of crack is that?" angry but confused as to what the Ranger was referring to.

"You’re little woman there has taken a liking to Rena the Renegade."

"Shut up you piece of shit! You don’t know what you’re talking about."

"Don’t I?"

Holly returned back to camp to find it deserted. They left! They used me to distract the posse then left! She was so overwhelmed by the emotions that flooded her she did not immediately notice the limp figure lying close to the cave entrance.

When her eyes fell on the figure she recognized it as the Renegade, her breath caught. She raced over the figure dropping down to her knees next to it. Panic was seizing her, she had to calm down! Unsure as to what to do, her eyes scanned the figure and took in the ropes that bound the arms and legs. This gave her a grain of hope, she must be alive; otherwise, why would she be tied up? She ran to Rena’s horse in search of a knife. Finding it, she raced back to the unmoving form. She released the arms and legs, then rolled the form onto its back.

One eye was swollen, her lip was split and dried blood streamed from the mouth and nose. Checking for knife and bullet wounds, Holly was relieved to find none. Holly went for water and bandages then started cleaning her up. A low moan announced the return of the lifeless form back to consciousness. Holly continued cleaning her face as she gained consciousness.

As the darkness receded, Rena found herself cradled in Holly’s lap.

Trying to maintain a casual voice that she did not feel, Holly asked "What happened?"

"They decided not to give the money back." Rena sighed. She never thought those cowardly, spineless bastards had it in them to turn on her.

"Oh." Holly winced at this information. What if they had killed her?! What have I done?!

There was a long moment of silence while Holly continued to clean her face and Rena gathered her strength. Bringing her thoughts together, Rena realized that she has to get out of here fast. She cannot hold off a posse that size by herself. It won’t be long before they realize that something happened. Rena slowly got to her feet and brushed herself off.

"Its over. Go to the posse. They will get you home." Rena stiffly walked towards her horse, stretching her muscles as she went. Holly followed.

"But, what about you. Where will you go?"

All of a sudden, Rena stopped, staring off into the forest she drew her gun. Holly closed the distance between them. The Renegade had the drop on the guy in front of her but she heard 5 more guns click the hammer back from different directions around her. "Holly, get out of here, run."

"No, I’m not leaving you. What is it?" Where would she run? From whom or what would she run from? What would happen to Rena?

They came closer. It was the posse. "Drop your gun Rena Halston." stated the Ranger.

The Renegade ran over her options quickly. I could only take about half of them. I might be able to make it to the horse and out of here before one of them gets in a fatal shot. It was worth the risk rather than be captured. Captured meant a hanging for sure. But ... Holly was too close, she would get hit.

"At the count of three we are going to start firing, put down your gun. ...... One. .... Two."

The Renegade raised her free hand, palm extended and lowered the barrel of the gun at the same time, then slowly lowered it to the ground and dropped it.

The Ranger walked up to the Renegade keeping his gun leveled at her. "Put your hands out." He cuffed them. "I captured Rena the Renegade! I’m going to be more famous than any other Texas Ranger. I hope there’s a photographer in that one horse town. This has to be documented for historical purposes." I will be more famous than any other Texas Ranger in history!

He looked her up and down. Disgust and contempt filled his voice. "Whats the matter? Couldn’t keep the boys in line?" Rena stared back at him expressionless.

The Sheriff briskly walked over to Holly. Before she could say a word, he backhanded her, knocking her back off her feet. From the tender scene they had just witnessed, it was evident to the Sheriff where Holly’s loyalties lie. The Renegade caught this out of the corner of her eye, the rage that enveloped her was unlike anything she had ever experienced before. She put her hands together and punched the Ranger in the stomach knocking him to his knees. With the Ranger out of the way, she did a roundhouse with her fists right into the side of the Sheriff’s face sending his head flying backwards. She punched him in the stomach. When his head came down, brought her elbow down into the back of his neck sending him to the ground.

The four other members of the posse jumped on top of her. She twirled sending them in different directions. They came back at her one and two at a time. She kicked the first one in the stomach, while twirling to release a roundhouse punch to the second. A third leapt towards her which she averted causing him to loose his balance sending him to the ground. The fourth grabbed her from behind. Bending, she flipped him over her back. She was facing the first guy again when the Ranger fired off his gun into the air causing everyone to freeze in their tracks. He lowered the gun, pointing it at the Renegade. "Put her hands BEHIND her back."

At first the ranger was stunned at being taken out so easily then furious at the thought that Rena might get away. He had to bring this under control, he had to bring her in. He pushed the pain aside and rose to his feet. As he drew his gun as he watched the battle. She was incredible, as if possessed! There would be no taking chances with her.

Her hands now cuffed behind her back, the Sheriff walked up to her. He drew back his arm then sent it forward into her stomach. Her stomach still sore from the earlier beating, the Renegade went down on her knees. She looked up at his face then curled her lips into a feral smile, eyes ice cold. The Sheriff broke into a cold sweat, quickly retreating.

Holly put herself in front of the Renegade. "Is this how you treat your prisoners, Ranger?" The fiery was evident in her eyes.

The Ranger merely snorted at her. He felt yet another sense of admiration for the Renegade. Yep, the she has done a pretty good job on that girl. The Renegade has many skills.

As Charlie had predicted, the posse was satisfied with capturing the Renegade. They were on their way back to Poteet. When they stopped for the night, Holly and the Renegade were tied to trees handcuffed. The Ranger didn’t feel that Holly could be trusted while they slept.

Holly felt horrible. Rena was going to hang because of her. Somehow she had to get Rena out of this mess.

Late into the night, when she was convinced everyone was asleep, the Renegade pulled the knife from her boots. She cut the rope. After a pause to check for anyone stirring, she pulled her legs through her arms putting the handcuffs in front of her again. She crept over to the Ranger. Putting one hand over his mouth and the knife at his throat at the same time. The Ranger startled, immediately aware of his situation.

"You make one move, I’ll kill you. No skin off my nose. Understand?" The Renegade whispered fiercely, her face very close to his. He slowly nodded. He understood all too clearly. He was witness to the vast trail of bodies that the Renegade had left behind. He was going to have to be on his toes to get out of this alive.

"Give me the key, SLOWLY." He produced the key from his vest pocket. The Renegade pulled her hands back as if to take the key then slammed them into his face sending him into oblivion.

She unlocked the handcuffs then proceeded to horses where she hastily saddled her horse. Holly watched as she lead her horse away from camp. Relief that her friend was free washed over her at the same time, it felt like her heart was being ripped at the thought of never seeing her again.

After a period of time, Holly took a deep breath and let it out. Rena should be at a safe distance by now. All of a sudden a hand covered her mouth as she felt someone breathing in her ear. "Are you going to be all right?" Rena whispered directly into Holly’s ear.

The now familiar voice pushed away the sudden fear. Holly’s eyes filled with tears and then spilled over. She could not trust herself to speak without waking up the entire camp. How could she explain something she herself did not understand?

Rena motioned for Holly to be quiet as she set her free then lead her quietly away from camp so they could talk.

"What is it that YOU want?" Rena whispered, not sure this was the time or place for this conversation.

"I don’t want to go back to Poteet. I thought maybe I could help you."

"Help me do WHAT?"

"Rena, you don’t need this. You could do so much good. The west is full of gun fighters looking to intimidate ordinary town folk. You would be a savior if you could keep that from happening. Gun fighters would not come near a town that you protected."

"Holly, this is not something that you can just walk away from. There’s a price on my head. What town in its right mind would want me to protect it. Besides, it doesn’t work like that. Gun fighters attract other gun fighters, for the reputation. I would be drawing them in like flies instead of repelling them. Not to mention the bounty hunters."

"Okay, maybe I don’t have all the details worked out. But I know you could make it work."

She understood what Holly was saying back in the cave. She had become the very thing that she fought so hard against. She had become what her brother had died fighting against! Unwilling to think about the future right now, she needed to concentrated on the posse. They have to get out of here. They? When did it become they?

"Are you sure you want to go ... with me?" The last part whispered very softly.

Holly beamed. "Yes." Suddenly sure that is exactly what she wanted.

"There is no turning back. Sleeping on the ground, going from town to town, .... Is this what you really want?" Still not convinced that Holly knew what she was getting into.

"Yes." It felt good to say it. This is what she really wanted. It was more than just an adventure, she wanted to be near Rena.

"I don’t even know where we are going or how we are going to survive." Still uncertain.

"We will figure it out."

We? Does she feel it too? She mounted then put her arm down for Holly. She swung Holly onto the horse. Instead of her usual timid grasp, Holly wrapped her arms around Rena’s waist squeezing her tight before loosening her hold slightly. Smiling Rena asked. "What was that for?"

"I’m just glad you’re safe." Was the simple response.

Well there’s only one way to find out. Rena turned halfway around in the saddle, hitching her right leg around the saddle horn. Rena, what are you doing, this certainly is not the time or place for this she berated herself. Their faces were only inches apart, she looked deep into those sea-green eyes then reached up gently running her thumb across Holly’s cheek then down around her neck. She searched those sea-green eyes for sign that this might not be welcome. She pulled Holly forward pressing their lips together. Feeling the responsiveness in those soft lips, it took all of her strength to pull back. It had lasted for just a moment after which she pulled back waiting for the reaction. Holly opened her eyes and smiled generating a corresponding smile from her. "We have to get out of here." She whispered then turned back around. Rena wondered if this young woman knew exactly what she was getting herself into. Holly hugged her tight again which kept that stupid smile plastered to her face. She began wondering if she knew what SHE was getting herself into.

Not having seen Rena’s smile from the hug, Holly nervously waited not knowing what to expect as Rena turned around in the saddle. Rena looked deep into her eyes which totally erased the fears building up. Holly could not breathe as Rena’s hand caressed her cheek then moved down her neck. Her hand left a path of fire as it traveled. She felt as if her entire being was under this woman’s control as she was pulled forward, not that she wanted to fight it. Time stood still, the world faded away, her only focus was on those incredibly beautiful blue eyes as their faces drew closer. Even the fact that they were on a very high horse completely eluded her. Their lips pressed together then separated too quickly. Her lips tingled from the contact. She opened her eyes to see those beautiful blue eyes focused on her and waiting for something. Her smile was returned which warmed her down to the bone. As if in apology, Rena whispered they had to get out of there and turned around. Holly could not contain the electricity that ran threw her, once again she threw her arms around the woman in front of her and squeezed. Rena’s hand covered hers then gently squeezed in acknowledgment.

With the moon full, they traveled all night. Rena covering their trail, doubling back, changing directions. She was certain no one would be following them this time. Its much easier to hide the trail of one lone horse than an entire gang.

Holly was asleep leaning up against her, Rena kept one hand over Holly’s arms to prevent her from falling. The warmth in her back felt very comfortable and familiar. It felt right.

She should be exhausted but when she thought about stopping, a sudden urge to push on would envelop her. She wanted to get far away from that posse, from her past. She was headed towards a different future. Uncertain for sure, but she was very much looking forward to it. She felt as if a large weight had been lifted off her shoulders to the point that she felt giddy. As she watched the sun come over the horizon, feeling the cool crisp air in her lungs, hearing the birds start their songs, she could not remember ever having seen such a beautiful day.

Maybe it was time to go home.

The End

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