That one short word was all Rebekah could get past her lips. Her hands pressed tightly together in her lap, she kept her eyes lowered. Wade could literally see her striving to regain her control-and doing it. He respected her for that. And in that moment, more than any other, he recognized that there was more to this woman than met the eye.
Ben Wade was feeling rather helpless right about now. He’d always known how to handle women. He knew how to flatter them, charm them, seduce them. But one thing he’d rarely, if ever, been called upon to do was to comfort a woman. He was unsure what to say or do with Rebekah right now.
Finally, he reached out to grasp her shoulder and turn her to face him. The eyes that he looked deep into still bore traces of fear, sadness, and shame. Following some instinct that he hadn’t known he possessed, Ben cradled her face between his large hands, wiped away the tears with his thumbs.
“You got no reason to feel shamed, Rebekah,” he told her firmly, his eyes stressing that point to her. “No reason at all.”
He gave her another moment to calm down before reluctantly removing his hands from her face. His voice returned to its hard, brittle inquiry. “That bastard go to prison?”
That soft, hesitant response fueled his anger. “Why the hell not?”
Rebekah dropped her eyes from him again. “I- I didn’t report it until two days after it happened.” Her voice was still quiet, almost inaudible. “I had bathed and showered at least a half a dozen times by then-just trying to erase it all. The lawyers said after-” Her voice nearly broke, but she regained control again. “-after that, there just wasn’t enough evidence to even take him to trial. It was my word against his.”
That was always the way of it, Wade said to himself. The law and justice almost never seemed to have anything to do with one another. That was why he always took care of his own justice. Looked like someone might have to take care of a little justice for Rebekah Logan, too.
Right at that moment, Ben Wade didn’t question why he felt like that someone had to be him. He was feeling more cold, hard anger than he’d felt since Charlie Prince had killed Dan Evans. He wasn’t sure when or where just yet, but God’s vengeance was going to be visited on Rebekah’s former foster father, sure as shootin’.
He picked up a lock of her golden-brown hair to rub between his fingers. He’d discovered the last time she’d been here that he liked caressing her hair that way. It felt warm and soft. It calmed him somehow, soothed his senses in a way that nothing else ever had.
Rebekah was feeling calmer now that she had managed to get herself under control. That control had always been such an important part of her life-perhaps because she’d had so little of it. That was one of the things she admired about Ben-the way he always seemed to be in control, even when he was in handcuffs and everyone around him had guns.
Now she took a deep breath and turned toward him once more. “Ben,” she said hesitantly. “I had a-” She paused, not sure what to call her experience. “-an incident of my own.”
She gazed at him steadily. “I saw- I felt- part of your life too.”
His blue eyes narrowed, as they held hers intently. What’d you see, darlin’?” His voice was deceptively calm and quiet.
She proceeded to tell him about waking in the middle of the night-about feeling as though she’d actually taken part in Tucker’s killing. About McElroy’s beating, and the terrible pain in her face.
He would have thought she was crazy were it not for his own experience, and all the other out-of-the-ordinary things that had happened since his arrival at Crowe’s Point. As it was, he listened-and learned. About Rebekah.
She called what he’d done to Tucker a “killing”, not murder as everyone else here had done. When she spoke of McElroy’s beating, her eyes softened and she reached out to Ben’s face. Ran the tip of one finger slowly over the crescent-moon-shaped scar that still remained underneath his right eye from that very beating.
He saw in her face, in her eyes, some measure of-not sympathy, but understanding. Because of that “vision”, or whatever the hell you could call it, she knew in some way about the pain he’d felt. And, incredibly, she also understood it.
Ben had had no regrets about killing Tucker. The man had burned Dan Evans’ barn, taken Ben’s horse, and taunted him about being hanged. As far as Wade was concerned, Tucker was an asshole, just like Dan had told him. Killing him was justice. The kind of justice that a man like Tucker would never have seen from the law because, as far as the law was concerned, Ben Wade was less than nothing and Tucker was an upstanding citizen.
He’d grown used to that kind of thinking in his own world. And, in the nearly a year that he’d been at the Point, all of his “brothers” and the others here seemed to feel the same, as far as he could tell.
But now, here was the sweet and decent Miss Rebekah Logan looking at him and actually understanding what had been in his mind. And what had been in his heart. What the hell was going on here?
He’d been puzzling over Rebekah and this tie they seemed to share since he’d met her three weeks ago. Even more so, following the glimpse he’d had into her life-seeing her be hurt and degraded the way she’d been.
And now, Wade was feeling anger and frustration. At her, and at this bond that he had not asked for, and didn’t understand. Just as he’d known the first time he saw her, this damned woman was complicating his life. But he’d figured out how to end it.
With the same question that had always ended it with women where he was concerned. There was no Mexico here, but still…
He fixed his eyes on her beautiful ones. Watched for a moment as they seemed to change to different shades of green. All the colors of the sea. Then he leaned forward, deliberately brushing his lips over the delicate curve of her ear, as he whispered, “Rebekah, will you come away with me? Now?”
He’d lost count of the number of women in his own world that he had asked to run away to Mexico with him. For every one who had answered with an outright ‘No’ or a laugh (as Emmy had in Bisbee), there was another who had asked a million questions.
Where? Why? When? How will we live? Where will we live?
As he drew back a little to look at Rebekah’s face, he saw all those same questions in her eyes. She asked him none of them. In her soft, quiet voice, she replied, “Yes, Ben. I’ll come.”
He was taken aback. Well, damn! The answer had always been ‘No’. Despite the fact that he could tell Rebekah was a little different from all the others he’d asked, he hadn’t really expected a different answer.
He’d thought she would refuse and that would somehow put an end to this “connection” they had, whatever the hell it was. But, now that she’d said yes…
“You mean it, darlin’? You’re sure?”
“Yes.” She nodded at him.
He looked at her steadily for a few moments, reevaluating her courage, her strength. He hadn’t given her enough credit. As he’d already observed to himself once, there was a lot more to Rebekah than met the eye.
Rebekah could tell that Ben was sizing her up, taking stock. Was he wishing that he hadn’t asked her to go with him? His question had stunned her. One moment, she’d been feeling so worthless and ashamed that she wished the ground would open up and swallow her. The next, Ben Wade was asking her to run away with him-just as he’d asked Emmy when he’d been in Bisbee. Well, she wasn’t about to be the fool Emmy had been.
Was she afraid? Yes, she thought to herself. But not of Ben. Of the situation. Of the impulsiveness, which was so foreign to her.
All her life, she’d concentrated on being safe. On retreating and hiding, where no one could touch her or harm her. But something-she didn’t know what-was telling her that she couldn’t do that this time. That she had to find the courage to act instead of hiding again. She’d come to Crowe’s Point to be with Ben, and she couldn’t run away from him now.
“I guess I should get my things.” She started to stand up-wanting to move, to take action, before her courage failed her again.
Ben grasped both her hands in his, grinning at her eagerness. “Just a minute, darlin’. I wanna leave just as much as you do, but I’ve got a little business to see to first.”
He removed a pocket watch from his coat. “Why don’t you get your things together and do whatever you need to do, and I’ll meet you in the hotel lobby in about an hour? After all-” His grin became wider. “Here we don’t have to jump out the back window and run from the law.”
His face, the look in his eyes, became serious. “Would your answer still be the same if we did, Rebekah?”
“Yes,” she told him firmly, and he believed her. The look in her eyes was strong and determined, and he saw something else-something he hadn’t seen there before. A spark of adventure. The kind of feelings he had when a new robbery was in the works.
Was that what he was doing, asking her to come away with him, he wondered. Was this a robbery of some sort? The cradle? He had at least a good fifteen years on her, maybe a little more. But he didn’t think that really bothered him. In his own time, women her age were married and had two or three kids already.
Was he robbing from Maximus? Seeing Rebekah with the General had bothered him from the start--maybe a good bit more than he’d been willing to let on. Maximus acted protective and affectionate toward her and Ben didn’t like it, although he was unsure why. Jealousy was not in his vocabulary--at least, not as it pertained to Ben himself. It was a good weapon to use when you wanted to turn people against one another, but he’d never actually felt it himself.
Hell, this place had him second-guessing too much. Whatever his motives, his mind was made up, and it was best to get on with things. Ben rose from the garden bench and pulled Rebekah up beside him. He brushed some stray strands of hair away from her forehead and allowed himself the luxury of another few seconds caressing her hair between his fingers.
“There’s one question that I do have to ask you, Ben.” She was looking at him a little hesitantly.
“What’s that, darlin’?” He was wary, sure she had changed her mind already.
“Is there anything in particular I should bring with me?”
His grin returned. “Your sketchin’ pad. Maybe two of ‘em. You’ll prob’ly see lots of things you’ll wanna draw.”
The look in his eyes changed from twinkling amusement to-- She wasn’t sure what. Ben Wade was such a complicated man. There was still a twinkle in his eye that seemed to be equal parts smugness, uncertainty, and--Rebekah drew in a shaky breath--desire.
For the first time since they’d met, he leaned down to caress her lips briefly with his own. The kiss was somehow both gentle and proprietary at the same time--as though he were both seducing her and marking her as his territory.
“I’ll see you in an hour, honey.” He winked at her and started off for the tavern.
To Be Continued