Two days until Christmas, I mused while rubbing the chicken with coarse sea salt after first peeling off the skin. The oven was at the right temperature and I'd be sliding our dinner in shortly. Inez was kneading the second rise out of our bread and six pies were cooling on the side counter. We worked well together and the saloon would be closed tonight for our family celebration. I was sure to include her within that parameter when we began making these plans.
The sage dressing was milder than what I usually made but it was an experiment to see what the others thought. Inez was humming something under her breath, her face smiling down at the creamy dough she was kneading with flour covered hands. I loved my home kitchen but the good memories here were rather nostalgic and I found myself smiling at the plump chicken and its sisters that were already nestled in the broad pan. I hoped that six would be enough for our brood.
"Senor Ezra, the bread is ready. What have we forgotten?" Inez set the eight loaves carefully into the oven at one side so there was room for the chicken. Barely.
"It wouldn't be dinner if we don't have beans." I grimaced and she laughed at me. "Fine, you can make them then."
"Already started," she brought out a three gallon pot filled with beans, bacon, onion and assorted spices to put on top of the stove.
The back door swung open and JD rushed in. "Hey, Ezra - Inez, I brought the nuts. Mrs. Potter got them in just in time."
"Excellent, JD, there should be a bowl over there," I tilted my head to point to the far counter since my hands were full with the chicken pan. Inez held open the oven door and I slid it in as far as it would go before backing away from the flames so she could close it again.
"Great!" JD was talking happily about his Christmas present for Buck while pouring the almonds and pistachios into the yellow pottery bowl that I'd found in New Orleans several years ago. It was one of my favorite dishes and I'd brought it in from home remembering fondly the small shop in which I'd often browsed when I was flush. Maybe one day, Chris and I would visit my favorite city together?
Perhaps not too much in the future if he liked his Christmas present.
********* Josiah *********
I thumped the kitchen door with my boot since my hands were filled with the crate of oranges. JD opened it with a grin and I carried in my share of the festivities. Ezra was flushed from the oven and I felt the little thrill that seeing him like that always brought me. He was open and smiling, which made him even more beautiful to my sight.
It was only a mental thrill these days although I think we both knew it might have been more if my eyes hadn't been opened to the healing powers of my Nathan. My lover was the greatest gift I'd ever been given. Now, even Chris was finally more at ease with me. I rather thought that he also knew how close he'd come to losing the man with whom he was falling in love.
Every once in a while I liked to needle him just a little though. He deserves it for almost letting Ezra slip through his hands, not to mention all the cruel things he said to the little southerner. But I thought perhaps he realized that because I'd never once heard or seen Ezra downhearted since they'd gotten together.
But that thought made me miss Nathan. I hadn't seen him since we shared a raspberry jam filled omelet for breakfast so I made my goodbyes and quickly strode to the clinic. Knocking softly, I heard his 'enter' and then I was in the warm room with Nathan's patient-smile dissolving into the smile that was mine alone.
We met in the middle of the room for our second kiss of the day and it was even better than the first. His lips are so soft and his tongue so tasty that we must have stood there for five minutes just kissing. We were both semi-hard when we broke off and just held each other. I'd missed the simple things like hugging and holding over the long years of my travels.
"To what do I owe this pleasure, Josiah?" He cupped my face with his warm hands and I moved just far enough to brush a kiss across his palm.
"Vin and Chris came back with Gloria's order. The oranges came so I took them over to the saloon. Ezra was just putting the chickens into the oven." I slid my hands slowly down his back.
He grinned knowingly at me and bumped our groins together. "And seeing Ezra all flushed and disheveled made you want to come and get me all lathered up."
I blushed a little but he knew everything about me and accepted it. "We've got a couple of hours before we need to go over for dinner. We could . . . take the edge off."
Nathan chuckled and gently wiggled over my suddenly rock hard groin. "I think maybe I better do more than just take the edge off. I think I should examine you to make sure that you're not coming down with something. Part of you seems rather . . . swollen."
********* Nathan *********
Josiah groaned just a little and I felt the satisfaction that sound always gave me. He was protective of Ezra and probably always would be but he'd come to me with his heart. I was a lucky, lucky man to have him. I pulled him along after me until we'd passed through the door that led into the cubbyhole that was my private space. With the two of us and the bed, there wasn't much room but that was all right with me.
He was already unbuttoning my shirt with that look of concentration that never fails to move me. He saw the color of my skin, the quick temper I was trying to master and everything else while wrapping me in his love. I had to be the luckiest ex-slave in the entire West. I moaned a little when his callused fingers finally found my skin, caressing me with just his fingertips.
"Love this, Nathan, love the way you feel." His husky whisper turned up the heat like no one else's. It's rough velvet poured over my ears and I loved listening to him tell a story or read a poem. But when he's telling me that he loves me, well that's when I listen the hardest. Only two people in my life have told me that, my mama and him.
But I needed to see him naked too so even though my brain was slow, my fingers weren't. This was a race that we'd both win. Like everything else, we took turns loving each other and I licked my lips at the thought that it was my turn to have him inside of me. I pushed him back onto the bed, loving the deep chuckle that came from that barrel chest with the wiry brown and silver hair.
I stretched out on top of him and felt all those heavy muscles against mine with a sense of satisfaction. Our groins slid against each other, already a little damp and leaking. Reaching over to the shelf above the bed, I grabbed the jar of liniment that worked to ease Josiah's bad knee and to lubricate our cocks. Getting a dollop out, I smoothed it over the magnificent organ that gave me so much pleasure.
He was chuckling again when I rose above him and guided him to my entrance. I took a brief moment to loosen the muscle there but I was more than ready for him. After a two year drought, we'd made up for lost time by making love twice a day and sometimes three when he stayed the night. His callused hands slid up my thighs to gently hold my cock while I slowly slid down until I was sitting on his thighs.
I could feel him pulse deep inside of me and the flash of warmth that would become a range fire when we started to move. "Love you, 'Siah."
"I love you too, Nathan." His lips smiled up at me and his eyes crinkled. "And just wait until I give you your Christmas present."
"Can't wait," I grinned back and started to ride him.
********* Chris *********
I finished the last leg of the patrol at the jail to relieve Buck. Stamping my boots at the edge of the board walk, I shook off the last of the snow before opening the pine door that welcomed me into warmth. Buck was sitting at the desk, head down over the drawings he was making of the house they wanted to build near mine.
Just thinking about the home Ezra and I had created brought a smile to my lips and the urge to find him and kiss him. Buck's chuckle gave me a start and his blue eyes laughed at my daydreaming. "I know just what you want to go do and as soon as JD gets here, you can go do it."
I barely reined in the urge to stick my tongue out at him. 'Real mature, Larabee.' But then I thought, 'what the hell' and did it anyway. "Like you're any better, Stud. I know exactly what the two of you will be doing the minute the door shuts behind me."
Those big eyes twinkled annoyingly. "And you'd be exactly right, Old Dog. Got to test out that mistletoe I've got hanging over the door, unless you want to give it a go?"
"Ugh," I grimaced. "Kissing you would just be so wrong, I don't have the right words but Ezra would."
He raised both hands in a backing away motion. "No, no, no, don't sick the Cook on me. He'd let my share of dinner burn if he even thought I was trying anything."
I smiled smugly while warming my hands at the stove. "Yes he would but even worse he'd slip something, I don't know what, into your food and not even that animal magnetism you brag about would save you." And I let my hand fall loosely at the wrist with a glare.
"Chris, I have to tell you that your glare is a mere shadow of its former self." He shook his head sadly and sighed heavily. "Ezra has done tamed the bad boy of the west to halter and I expect you know it."
I couldn't keep my glare because he was so very right. "He's given me so much I truly don't know what I'd do without him." Turning my back to the stove I felt the warmth finally get through my jeans. "He's so alive and just . . . so damn much fun it should probably be illegal."
This time his smile was tender. "I know exactly what you mean, my friend. JD isn't a child although I used that excuse for quite awhile to keep me from doing something wrong, but he brings so much joy to the least little thing he says or does that I feel like a born-again man just being with him."
I laughed. "We've got it bad, Buck. And you know what? I don't care. I'm going to do my very best to keep Ezra happy and satisfied for the rest of our lives."
"Too bad we can't take vows with them like you did with Sarah." Buck grinned ruefully.
********* Buck *********
Chris didn't even flinch at her name. I was more glad about that than I could ever say out loud. His eyes had a fond look but no longer a despairing one. His thin lips quirked up a little. "Probably never will be able to say it out loud to anybody but ourselves but I'm trying hard to remember to tell him everyday how much I love him and need him."
Hollow stamping outside the door had me sitting up straight and looking eagerly to the door. I'd been a little disappointed to have Chris walk in instead of JD. The door opened, letting in a gust of snowy December air and my lover. His cheeks were rosy and his funny hat had a faint dusting of powdered snow on it. But his smile was shining bright when his eyes came right to me.
Chris chuckled and crossed the room to JD. "The streets are quiet, boys. I'm going to go over to see if Ezra will let me taste test anything for him."
JD laughed right back at him. "It smells really good but almost everything is in or on the stove. Josiah brought in oranges and the nuts came too so there might be something to taste."
Chris clapped him on his shoulder. "I'll try to leave you guys a little something." Then he was closing the door behind him while I got up and stalked over to my lover.
He was practically bouncing on his heels when I hugged him close and slowly lowered my head for our fifth kiss of the day. His lips were cool from the winter air but his tongue was hot and wet when I slid mine in next to it. His little whimper and the hardness stabbing my groin was familiar and always welcome. He had a recovery time measured in minutes and I took full advantage of it.
His cold hands slid around me and into the waistband of my black broadloom pants. We were both dressed a little nicer than usual for the holidays but right now, I wanted him naked in the worst way. My nice warm hands slid down to cup his pert little cheeks and bring him an inch closer while he moaned a little and sucked harder on my tongue. He tasted of sweet oranges and I delighted in the way it changed his own tasty self.
But I needed more right at the moment and he seemed to agree, pulling just far enough away so I could unbutton his pants and let his lovely cock spring out to greet me. "JD, I may have forgotten to tell you about an old Irish custom of kissing under the mistletoe."
He chortled. "Buck, I know about that and it's not Irish at all."
I kissed him hard once before dropping to my knees and beginning to lick the shiny red knob already leaking a little salty tear. "Ah but the Irish version has a little more substance to it, you see. It's not lips I'll be a'kissin'."
********* JD *********
I swear I saw stars when he swallowed me whole. I leaned back against the door and locked my knees so I didn't crumble to the floor. Buck has the hottest mouth in the west and what he can do with his tongue is probably against the law in every state of the union. But I wasn't going to tell anybody because then he might stop and I'd have to shoot somebody.
I was shaking at every little thing he did, like suck a little and wrap his tongue around my crown before sucking a little harder. I tried not to move, I really did but it all felt so good I just had to thrust my hips towards his heat. He chuckled around me and I felt a shiver travel up through my chest, down my arms and into my hands. So I ran my fingers through his soft black hair until he hummed contentedly.
We both like giving each other scalp massages so he purred for me, the vibration making my balls drawn up tight. It was going to be soon because it felt like I'd been waiting for hours to make love with him. His big hands were cupping my ass cheeks and when one finger slid through my crease, I bit my hand to keep from shouting out loud and flooded his mouth with my come.
Jerking a little, I gave him every drop while being very glad the door was there to hold me up. His middle finger was tickling my hole and it made me shiver all over. Then he was gently letting my cock drop from his lips and standing up to share my taste with me. It tasted weird combined with the sweet orange I ate with Ezra and Inez. But that was okay, we'd tasted weird before and survived.
That middle finger had slipped inside of me and I pushed back to get him deeper. We'd taken our time with this kind of loving but once I'd taken him, he'd finally gotten me ready and taken my virginity. There was some pain but it paled beside how good it felt when he found that magic spot inside of me.
His mustache tickled when he slid his mouth over my cheek to the spot under my left ear that always heated my whole body. "You taste good, sweetheart. Now you see why the Irish will inherit the earth. Their kisses are just naturally better than anybody else's."
I giggled and tried to widen my legs but my pants were in the way. My hands found his belt buckle, the silver bucking bronco I'd gotten him for his birthday and unfastened it so I could get to his button fly. "I agree but what about the rest of us poor souls who aren't Irish?"
He moaned a little when I freed his heavy cock from his pants. "Oh god, darlin', you'll never have to worry. I'll take care of you myself."
"I know a better way, Buck." I fondled the thick bar of flesh in my hands. "I think you can make me Irish with an inoculation like Nathan did for us with the smallpox vaccine. All you have to do is get really deep inside of me and give me your seed. I'm pretty sure that would do it although you might have to do it a couple of times to make it work."
He groaned and kissed me hard, his tongue surging against mine. But then he pulled away and spun me to facing the door. When I felt his tongue right where his finger had been, getting me wet and loosening the muscle, I thought I'd go insane. When his thumb popped through my pucker I knew I'd be stretched around his big cock soon. He was still real careful of me but that was all right, I liked taking care of him, too.
Then he was warming my back and his broad crown was nudging my hole until it finally broke through. I was panting hard at the pain but he rested there for a long minute until I relaxed enough for him to slide on in. Smiling into the pine door, I flexed around him and listened to his breath catch.
Irish kisses really were the best.
********* Vin *********
We all sat around the table fit to bust at the seams. Ezra's dimple was in full play at all the compliments, but heck, he deserved 'em. I had never eaten so much good stuff in one sitting in my life. There weren't nothing left of the chickens or the beans and we'd made a pretty good dent in the fresh bread, too. All the smells had like to overcome my nose, kind of like the noise that mob had done to my ears when they were trying to hang Nate.
I'd taken a couple of breaks outside to clear it out and Ezra had checked on me to make sure I was okay. He can be a real mother-hen sometimes but secretly . . . I liked it. Chris was the closest thing I had to a brother so I guess that made Ezra one, too. Funny but after all these years, I was part of a family again. Part of me wished Chanu could be here enjoying this too but most of me knew how closed-in he'd feel in a white man's town.
We were going to have our own celebration tomorrow when I rode out to the tribe. There was a little hot springs high in the hills he'd shown me a few weeks before and I thought it might be kind of fun to camp out there for a day or two. Maybe Ezra would let me take some of the fresh bread with me. Or maybe I'd ask Inez while she was distracted with her new husband.
Miguel Rodrigues had stayed behind after his father and brothers returned to Las Cruces. He would have plenty of work next spring when we built the next two houses for the seven. He and Inez had hit it off almost immediately and they'd married on December 1st this year. Their home was the small bedroom and bath at the back of the saloon. Miguel was making bricks out near where Josiah and Nathan's house was going to be just outside of town about a half an hour's ride from Chris and Ezra's place.
Looking around the table, I thought about our last Christmas before any of us had gotten together. We'd been a tight knit group but nothing like we were now. Instead of us pairing off and losing our closeness, we'd paired off and clung together even tighter. Guarding each other, I guess. Making sure we had each other's back in case somebody decided we were doing the devil's work.
Didn't rightly think the devil had anything to do with love but some folks got real queer ideas about what's right and wrong. Don't see how love can ever be wrong, leastways not if nobody's hurting anybody else. We'd gotten quieter just now and I saw JD lean into Buck's side with a little yawn. He'd been walking kind of stiff like when they came in the batwing doors and he surely did smell like Buck.
Nathan had come in all relaxed and calm and sure enough he'd smelled of Josiah. Ezra had been too busy to give Chris his own smell but I was willing to bet before the night was over, my friend would be walking kind of gingerly, too. And tomorrow, well I just have to make sure Chanu bore my scent for a week or so.
"Gentlemen and my lady," Ezra stood up with a glass of amber whiskey in his hand. "I propose a toast. To the holidays and friends, may we celebrate many more."
We all stood up and raised our glasses. "To many more."
Yep, this Christmas was just the start of a family tradition. It was great to have a family again. Sitting back down, I smiled at Chris eyeing Ezra with a hunter's look. I was real glad I'd be sleeping outside tonight. It was apt to be a mite noisy in the saloon.
The end of Dust part seven