Katherine Oscuro (Light) Gabrielle
Cody Caldwell Sangria(Blood) Le Diable Xena
Violence: ermmm……yes, of course.
Sex: Ermmmmmm…..yes again.
Anything else: yes, again….just read the story already.
St Louis. July 4th:
Seven miles out of St Louis, the campgroud was overflowing with tents gathered for the fourth of July fair. The tents were joined by wagons of all shapes and sizes. Youngers dashed between all the makeshift homes, adding to the noise of the fife, drum, banjo and pipe. Smoke rose from barbeques throughout and the air was heavy with the smell of meat, coffee and stews. Cakes of every description were set out in the early morning light to cool and many others had been taken to the judging tents for the morning competitions.
Every able body in and around St Louis was already in attendence and there were visitors from as far away as Memphis.
Katharine climbed up onto the railing and searched the crowd for a familiar face. She had doubts that anyone from home would be there, but eventually her eyes alighted on a small chestnut horse and his owner.
"Go Indian!" She shouted. The horse turned his head at the familiar voice and his owner turned too. Katharine waved wildly at Stuart Campbell who waved back before continuing around the paddock.
A small smattering of applause caused her to look around and she noticed that the mayor was now approaching. Katharine reached a hand up to smooth back her hair and she noticed that she was still covered in a light sheen of pespiration from the dancing contests. Katharine glanced down at her slippers, only to notice that they had been ruined. Her mother had ordered them from a small store in Atlanta for her sixteenth birthday, she had only worn then five times in two years and now they were ruined. A stab of pain shot up her chest when she realised again that her mother would never be able to buy her anything again.
She listened closely to the mayor and his friends. A tall woman with dark hair the colour of a raven's wing was standing near to him, as she turned, Katharine got a glimpse of blue eyes that seemed to shoot sparks of electricity.
"Look at the rump on that chestnut bay, Captain." The mayor was saying. "That's where the start comes from, gotta have a good rump."
"Aah yes," replied the woman, "but the legs aren't nearly as powerful as your horses' sir. Besides, I hear he's from a small farming community. Probably only ever used for plowing. Doesn't stand a chance."
Katharine had tuned in completely as they were talking about Indian. "His legs?" She said, noticing at once how her voice had suddenly become higher. "His legs are fine, I can assure you. Pulling a plough is good for the muscles." A hush settled over the group. Katharine had directed her comments at the Mayor, but she felt rather than saw the tall woman's eyes trying to stare her down.
Katharine suddenly clapped a hand across her mouth. "I…I beg your pardon. Its just that…I know this horse and he….he's fast…and-"
The tall woman leaned in closer. "I didn't mean to insult your horse, ma'am." Sh purred slowly. In the background, Katharine saw the mayor laughing and then moving away.
The stranger lingered longer. "I apologise, but I still keep to my opinion. His legs aren't sound enough for a race horse."
"I think that you'll change that opinion when you see Indian race." Katharine replied.
"Aah well, I expect that you've made a wager?" The woman replied.
"No….not yet. It's still a few hours to the race."
"yes, of course." The woman's top lip curled slightly and she seemed to sneer down. Katharine directed her attention to the woman's clothing for a minute rather than look into the shocking blue eyes. A shirt was tucked tightly into the closely fitting britches, a gunbelt was fastened around the waistband also, revealing well proportioned hips and thighs. The pants were tucked into knee high boots made of black leather, and Katharine could see a dagger pinioned against the woman's calf muscle. A large black stetson was perched slightly back on the womans head and she carried a long black jacket over one arm. "I must leave you now, I'm expected at the firing range."
"Well, you must go. My friend is also over there now. I will see if I can come to watch you later."
"Splendid. Good day, miss-?"
"Oscuro. Katharine Oscuro."
"A strange name for this part of the country….Oscuro…Light. Katharine of the Light. Now that I think of it, you don't look like one of these country bumpkins. May I assume that you're one of the Spanish Oscuros?"
"I….I suppose so. Are you familiar with the Oscuro's?"
"Yes, I lived near them as a child. Forgive me, my name is Captain Cody Caldwell."
"You're a captain?" Katharine asked, her petite nose wrinkling up as she thought of it in confusion. Captain Caldwell smiled.
"Of a ship. I own a small fleet of ships based in New Orleans."
"Well, I must go and place my wager now, Goodbye Captain Caldwell."
"Au revoir, Miss Oscuro."
Katharine turned and walked away, careful not to look back although she knew that Cody Caldwell was staring into her back. She's just toying with you Katharine, she told herself. Was that french that she had spoken? Katharine shook her head at herself. That woman was an owner of several ships and must've enjoyed knowing that she dazzled you with her charm. Katharine headed to the betting office and placed $5 gold dollars on Indian. It was almost all that she had with her, but she hoped that it would win her enough to buy a new dress from one of the stalls. She had left home with a little under $50 gold dollars, a fortune to anyone in the valley, including herself. The money was to get her to here, then onto New Orleans via a passage on the Cecilia up the Mississippi.
Cody made her way across the back field toward the firing range. She had entered herself this morning on pure impulse and now she was regretting it. The sun was beating down horribly and she pulled her hat down further. She was a woman of the sea and hated land problems, at least at sea, you had water. Lots and lots of water. Cody let her mind fill up with images of her ship on the open sea to calm herself for the competition. Almost immediately, Images of blood soaked ships entered into her perfect picture. Bodies of men in uniforms strewn across the decks as the sunk to the ocean floor. Cody glanced around before dropping to her knees and letting her breakfast come up behind a bush.
She eventually continued onto the competition. She toyed with the idea of turning back and going to the craft fair with the mayor but then she remembered the young womans face when she had offered to come and watch.
There was something about her. She was more than just a pretty girl with a smile. Cody was sure that they had met before. She resembled the cream skinnned beauties of New Orleans, but there was something more and Cody couldn't quite put her finger on it.
The sun was still beating down on her thick black shirt, but Cody resisted the urge to tear it off as she would if she were on her ship, depite her men. She bit back a smile as she thought of the scandal that she would cause. It was enough being here in men's clothing. She glanced around behind her. Katharine Oscuro was standing slightly to her left. The girl dropped her eyes immediately.
Concentrate, Cody reprimanded herself. The girl was still clad like a country bumpkin with her backwoods dancing dress and golden curls tied up with a tattered ribbon.
But her appearance caused undeniable stirrings within her and she couldn't resist them. Cody wondered if the sun was getting to her. She had seen beauties cladin Paris gowns, and women without anything, but this simple girl was causing a throbbing ache within her that Cody had always been able to quell down before.
There was another woman in the contest. A tallish girl with auburn shoulder length curls. The girl was obviously only there because she was being made to be and Cody could see that she wasn't having much fun.
It was Cody's turn again. She stepped up to the line, giving a slight hip sway for the benefit of the male competitors. Katharine's friend dropped out in that round, but for some reason, Katharine couldn't draw herself away from the firing range. Cody retreated back to stand next to the other woman. "You're looking hot, Miss Rebecca." She drawled in a sexy undertone.
"I…I'm fine thank you."
"Perhaps you'd like to sit down for a moment."
"If you're trying to unnerve me, you'd better try harder."
Cody bit her lip to stop from smiling. This one was diverting her attention from Katharine Oscuro.
Rebecca stepped up to the line and took careful aim. Four of the six cans fell from the target. Rebecca looked as though she was about to cry. Cody went up and touched the other womans chin. "What's the matter, Darlin'?"
"I needed to win." Rebecca sniffed. She gulped, "my Pa's sick and I can't get a doctor because we don't have any money, and I spent the last few dollars to get into this."
"I'll strike you a deal." Cody said quietly so that the other men didn't hear her. "I'll win for you and give you the winnings, ok?" Rebecca nodded. "But I want you."
"I'm not going to hurt you. And only for an hour, ok?"
"I'll meet you over by the racetrack at the end of the day then."
Cody stepped up to the line. She fired six times, not caring about her posture or aim. For each bullet, a can fell down from its perch.
One by one, the other men eventually dropped out or were sent off. Within twenty minutes, it was clear that Cody had won.
She turned, offering a small half-smile to Rebecca. "A woman….a woman for the first time ever!" Somebody in the crowd cried. Cody turned to notice that Katharine wasn't there anymore.
Cody sped over to the racetrack for the final race. From the top of the stairs, she could see both Katharine and Rebecca. Twelve horses sped around the track. Cody pushed her way through the crowd and down to near Katharine's side. For the first lap, the horses were all head to head while their hooves pounded on the earth. Then four inched forward. By the third lap, those four horses had been reduced to two.
"Indian and Star." Katherine breathed. By the end of the fourth lap, it was Star's nose that edged ahead of Indian. Without a thought, Katharine threw herself to Cody's chest. Her eyes began to stream tears. On a sudden impulse, Cody pressed a hand to Katharines back before pushing her backward. "I'm sorry about your horse. Did you put a wager on him?"
Katharine nodded, wiping stray tears away from her face.
She pulled out of Cody's grip and ran blindly through the crowd to meet her friend to go back to the hotel.
With a sigh, Cody turned back to the racetrack, the mayor was in the Winners Circle now, proudly showing off his horse. She cleared her mind of thoughts of Katharine, choosing instead to think about the fun that lay ahead of her later with Rebecca. But for some odd reason, green eyes and golden hair still invaded her thoughts.
There was a distant roll of thunder in the background as Katharine stepped up to the hotel. She had bidden goodbye to her friends who were heading home at first light. But she was going onward, to a new life in New Orleans. Mr Tinieblas had offered to let her stay with one of his lady friends, and so Katharine was to meet a lady named Carmen Anita at the port as soon as she stepped off the boat. St Louis was still abuzz with festivities, and there were various uniformed people over the town. Many were honouring their uniform, but there were a few men gathered around the hotel steps who were most obviously drunk out of their wits. Katharine shook her head. She climbed the steps, careful not to trod on her long hoop skirt. All around her, women glanced at her. She knew that she must look a mess by now.
The hotel attendent nodded to her as she passed upstairs. The room that she had rented was sparse but comfortable. Katharine collapsed across the bed and let her tears run free.
A faint meowing outside the window caused her to look up. The room was blurry due to her tears, but she made it to the window without crashing into anything. It took her a few moments to work out the clasp, but eventually the window swung open and a small patchy cat waltzed in. "Oh no you don't." Katharine said, trying to shoo it out again. Mindless of her, the cat darted through the furniture and climbed up onto the bed. It settled in at the foot of the blankets and looked quite at home.
"Just what do you think that you're doing?" Katharine demanded. "Well, I suppose that I can let you warm yourself a bit. But then you have to leave!" She settled in next to the cat after throwing a few more logs onto the fire. "Hmm, a girl huh? I don't recognize your breed, but I'd guess that you're a little of this and that, just like me I suppose." The cat climbed leisurely into her lap. "Ooh, aren't you sneaky! I wish I could take you to New Orleans with me, but I don't have a box or anything." The cat stretched her paws out and began to pat gently at Katharine's dress. "Oh well, everyone needs a name, so you can be my Angel until you leave. Do you like that? Angel?" But by then, the cat had fallen asleep, and within moments, Katharine had too.
"I'm sorry Ma'am, but no animals allowed on board. It's the rules. I'd get in trouble miss." The boatman said firmly.
"But sir, I have some money, I can pay for another ticket for it." Katharine replied.
"Miss, the ladies stay in the one section together, if you had a private room, then maybe I could allow you, but I can't!" The boatman replied.
Katharine turned and headed back down the gangplank. "We'll just have to find you a home then Angel." She said softly to the cat in the box tucked under her arm.
An hours search for a suitable home yielded nothing, and Katharine soon found herself back at the dock. "I'll just have to let you go here." She mumbled to the cat. She let the small animal out of the box and the cat immediately went to relieve itself. Katharine sat down dejectedly on the now vacated box. She put her head in her hands and rested her elbows on her knees. Cody had seen it all. She had arrived at the dock a few moments before Katharine and was waiting quietly behind a large tree. She had taken the time to change and wash in a friend's store and was now puffing slowly on a cigarette. The sight of the little ragtag girl and her pleas for herself and her cat, her prideful battle with her tears, oh hell, the sight of her would melt a granite boulder. It had sure melted Cody's.
"Miss Oscuro?" a voice behind her asked. Katharine jumped up and turned at the same time, resulting in her falling forward. Cody stepped in quickly to avoid the lady falling flat on her face. Her arms wrapped around the smaller woman whose eyes opened to gaze up at her. Immediately she grew rigid in Cody's embrace.
A small insistent mewing began and Cody looked down at small claws ripping slowly through her pants. "Damnation!" She swore.
"Did she hurt you?" Katharine asked, strightening herself.
"No. She's not big enough to do that." Cody replied. "A fierce protector you are." Cody said to the kitten, "I've underestimated you."
"I have to find the cat a home now, Captain, if you'll excuse me."
Cody swooped down and grabbed the cat roughly. "What are you doing!" Katharine cried in horror.
"Solving your problem, now be quiet - and stop calling me captain. It makes me sound like an old man." Cody replied. She strolled over to the boat and walked up the gangplank as if she owned the ship.
"Excuse me!" The boatman called. "Just what do you think that you're doing?"
Cody turned icy blue eyes on him. "Coming aboard. Or do I have to ask permission?" She smiled softly.
"With the cat."
"Oh. Taking it to my room. I do enjoy cat for dinner, and it's not on the ships menu I believe." Cody kept a deadly straight face and Katharine cried out again. "Just what do you think that I'm doing!"
The boatman shrugged. "It can't come aboard, whether its going to be made into soup or not. It's the rule."
"Women stay upstairs in the aft, men of quality and married couples stay in the cabins, and single men stay forward. No animals in the aft cabin. It's the rule!"
"Are you suggesting that we are not quality?" Cody asked, raising an eyebrow delicately.
"Have you paid for a cabin?"
"Yes. And I am friends with your captain. Once he hears of this…."
The man's face went deathly pale. "You're the one. He told us to expect you. I'm dreadfully sorry. Your friend can bring the cat aboard. Please, I didn't mean to insult you…"
"That's fine, an honest mistake."
Cody breezed past him quickly and Katharine followed, shooting frightened glances over the rest of the ship. Katharine was still gaping unceremoniously by the time they reached the cabin door. Cody leaned her shoulder against the door to force it open. When Katharine didn't follow her into the cabin, Cody sighed and picked the younger woman up. She threw her onto the bed and stepped away to adjust her silk shirt around her neck. Katharine stood up. "How dare you!" She exclaimed loudly. "I have never felt so degraded in my whole life. I don't know what game you're playing, Captain Caldwell, but I want no part of it. I'm leaving." She stepped toward the door but Cody turned and grabbed her by the shoulders.
"Use you head, girl!" She snapped. "It's quite pretty, but I wonder if it has any other use. Now then, if you leave this room, you will not have your animal and I will make it certain that you will not have the respect that comes with staying in a cabin. I feel awful about what happened at the fair, pray allow me to help you through this crisis."
Katharine glanced at the cat who was already pawing at the bed. "Yes. I…I suppose that we could use this opportunity." She looked over the room. There was a thick persian looking rug across the floor, a large bed made from a burgundy wood Katharine hadn't seen before and a tall desk and wardrobe made from the same timber. There was a small adjoining bathroom and windows showing a view of the river.
"Good. I'll get your things moved and some food. I'll be back soon"
Cody slipped out the door amid protests from Katharine. True to her word, she was back within a quarter of an hour. Both the girl and the cat were asleep on the bed. It was hard to decide which looked worse. At least there were possibilities of the girl changing. As for the cat.…
As if it heard Cody's thoughts, the cat stood up but Cody quietened it with a piece of fish. She put a small basket of fruit on the desk along with some bread and cheese and slipped back out the door.
Katharine awoke with a start. It took a moment for the fuzziness of her brain to clear until she remembered where she was. It seemed fate had thrust her into Captain Caldwell's clutches and she wasn't sure it that was supposed to make her happy. But Tarnation, that woman was attractive. And she had treated her so nicely.
"Why! We're moving!" She suddenly cried out. She ran to the tallest window and peered out. "It's so beautiful, Angel!"
After her momental enthusiasm had passed, Katharine glanced into the mirror atop the basin. What she saw would have made her mother turn in her grave. She washed quickly and changed into her calico dress. She replaced her boots with her slippers and gave herself a liberal spraying of cologne. She then set forth brushing her golden locks. After ten minutes, she threw the brush down onto the bed. It seemed that she was spending a great deal of time making herself look presentable for Captain Caldwell.
The door opened and the captain herself stepped in. "Aah, I see that you're refreshed. You look enchanting, cherie."
"Thank you." Katharine answered. "And thank you for your assistance earlier and the food and…"
"That's quite fine."
"Does the ships captain know about the cat?"
"Yes, I have explained the situation and he has welcomed you on board."
"Well, I see no reason to further occupy your cabin. I'll be out of here as soon as I can repack - "
"Theres no need for that. I'm sure that you would be more comfortable in your own cabin rather than in the aft. After all, I won't be here."
"I've agreed to stay with the captain, we're old friends you see, and this is his second time going up the mighty Mississippi, so he needs a little guidance."
"Oh." Katharine looked disappointed that Cody hadn't put up more of a fight. "Well, if you're quite sure…"
"I'll be leaving you shortly, I just need to gather my things." Cody turned and headed for the wardrobe, where she began to collect her clothes and belongings. She began to hum, an idea that Katharine found hilarious. She hid a giggle behind her hand.
"Perhaps we could stroll around the deck later. I assume that this is your first steamboat journey?" Cody asked.
"And may I ask why you are going to New Orleans?"
"My….mother passed away recently. I'm to stay with friends of the family."
"Anyone of my acquaintance?"
"How should I know?" Katharine replied, confused.
"No, I'm asking you to tell me their names."
"Oh." Katharine blushed a perfect shade of pink. "Mr Tinieblas was my fa - …..mothers friend. He's arranged for me to stay with a lady friend of his."
"Tinieblas? Take my advice now Ms Oscuro, do not let yourself get mixed up with Tinieblas."
Katharine looked shocked. "I'll thank you not to insult a friend of my mother Captain Caldwell."
Cody sighed. "Who is his friend?"
"A Miss Anna Worthing."
Cody coughed loudly. "Worthing? Why her?"
"Mr Tinieblas has arranged my stay at miss Worthings home."
"So you know all about her….establishment?"
Katharine stiffened. "I know all that I have to, and I don't need advice from you!" She brushed past Cody and sat on the bed. "Get out of here until you learn some manners."
Cody kept a smile from her face. If only you knew who I was, she thought to herself. She nodded instead and headed out. Once outside, she leaned her back against the mahogany sideboard and shook her head in shock. What on earth would a nice girl like Katharine Oscuro be doing going to a brothel under the supervision of Anna Worthing and Tinieblas?
Continued in Part 3.