Adult –but not too graphic
The small cabin, built especially for the leader of the Devil's Hole gang, was crowded. Half of the gang's members grouped excitedly around the small wooden table. Kyle beamed from ear to ear as Lobo and the others clapped him on the shoulder and grinned back at him.
They watched their leader, Hannibal Heyes, slide a small black case out from the bottom of his closet.
Heyes was having second and third thoughts about what he was doing as he picked up the container and joined the others. He set the padded case carefully on the table. Tapping his fingertips on the tabletop, he hesitated.
Maybe he should stick to lecturing about the proper care and usage of nitro before getting to any practical demonstrations. A few hours of dull talkin' would dim Kyle's enthusiasm. Kyle didn't have much patience for what he called 'book learnin'. Heyes frowned. Didn't say much about the gang that Kyle was the best candidate to be the back-up man for nitro.
"Ain't you gonna open it, Heyes?" Kyle was getting impatient.
Groaning inwardly, Heyes closed his eyes and prayed for deliverance. He looked at Kyle and forced a smile. "First thing you gotta remember about working with nitroglycerine, Kyle, is take everything slow and easy." He unfastened the case and flipped back the lid.
They all stared at the small glass bottle with deep respect — and on Kyle's part, a bit too much excitement for Heyes' peace of mind. Heyes swallowed hard and cleared his throat. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea.
The door behind Heyes eased open slowly as Kid Curry carefully poked his head around the doorjamb. The minute he'd rode into camp, Wheat had hunted him down and warned him what Heyes and Kyle were up to. If what Wheat had told him was true, he didn't want to cause any accidents by startling his partner.
Despite Wheat's warning, it took a second for Curry to believe what he was seeing. Heyes knew how he felt about Nitro.
"Heyes!" The sturdy door slammed against the wall. Everyone jumped.
"Kid, you're back!" Heyes grinned, delighted. His grin faded as he caught the angry glint in his partner's eyes.
"Just got in a few minutes ago." Taking a deep breath, Curry struggled for composure. He glanced at the nitro on the table and then at Heyes. "I need to talk to you."
Leaning casually in the doorway, gloveless right hand resting on his hip, Curry tried not to let his frustrated worry show. Despite his annoyance, he didn't want his partner to lose face in front of the men. That would only make things harder on Heyes when the Kid wasn't around to back him up. Wanting privacy, he eyed the men huddled around the table.
Ever since the first unsuspecting fool had pushed the Kid too far, the gang had made a point of learning how not to step on the gunman's toes. Now, despite Curry's laid-back posture, they easily recognized the dangerous spark in his blue eyes.
No one had to tell the gang to skedaddle. An agitated Kid Curry and a full bottle of nitroglycerine… that was just too much volatility in one small room for any man who had a lick of self-preservation. Before the Kid had taken more than a step, everyone but Kyle had scooted out the door behind him.
"Kyle, looks like we're gonna have to continue this lesson later," Heyes said. Later as in never. Heyes had prayed for a reprieve, but this wasn't exactly what he'd had in mind. The Kid didn't look happy. Neither did Kyle.
"Heyes," Kyle said. "You was gonna show me how to work the good stuff." Kyle had been looking forward to the status working with nitro would give him. In his mind, he could already picture the respect on the faces of Lilly's gals at the Blue Daisy. Kyle could imagine the shock on Wheat's face as Molly passed him by, escorting Kyle over to the bar for a drink, instead.
Spooked out of his daydream, Kyle shied away as Kid Curry approached him. He visibly twitched as the Kid wrapped a strong arm across his shoulders, maneuvering him towards the open doorway.
"Kyle, I'm doing you a favor."
"You are?" Kyle said. He tried to look up and back at the Kid. Sometimes what the Kid said and what he was meanin' were two different animals altogether. Kyle wanted to see the Kid's face.
Curry's grip around Kyle's shoulder's tightened.
"Handling nitro ain't an easy job." The Kid gazed directly into Kyle's eyes. "In fact," he said, "it can be downright dangerous." He paused. "If someone – like Heyes, for example – was to get hurt, I'd get real upset."
Kyle's Adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed. His throat was dry.
"Kid… " Heyes warned, not quite as delighted as he had been before that his partner was back.
It annoyed Heyes no end when the Kid pushed so hard to get his own way, regardless of Heyes' own plans. He knew Curry hated it when Heyes resorted to using nitro. It scared the Kid because it wasn't something he could threaten with his gun or his fists to keep Heyes safe. The only way the Kid could protect Heyes from the unpredictable substance was to keep him from using it.
Still, it was Heyes' decision to make. If he wanted to teach Kyle to handle nitro, he didn't need the Kid butting in. His partner should have taken it as a given that he had a perfectly good reason for doing so. Irritated, Heyes completely disregarded the fact that minutes earlier he had been regretting the decision to mix Kyle and nitro together.
As leader of the Devil's Hole gang, there sure were a lot of the men trying to tell him what to do. Heyes' expression made his resentment clear.
Curry's arm dropped from Kyle's shoulder. He turned an obstinate glare on Heyes, but kept silent.
Kyle stumbled back in relief as Kid Curry released him. He edged away from the two men. "Reckon you're right, Kid." He smiled weakly at Heyes, still moving towards the door and safety. "It's gettin' late, Heyes. The boys is expecting me to join 'em at poker."
Heyes sighed. "Go on, Kyle."
Kyle nearly tripped over himself in his haste to get outside.
Curry shut and barred the door. He turned to face his partner, arms crossed over his chest and stubborn chin tilted up.
"I leave you for less than a week, Heyes, and it comes to this?"
"There are folks out there tryin' to kill us every time we step out of Devil's Hole. That ain't enough for you? Now you gotta try and get yourself killed? Nitro is bad enough, but putting it in Kyle's hands?" Curry's voice rose. "Have you gone crazy? If you're in that much of a hurry to do yourself in, just tell me Heyes," he shouted. "I'd be happy to shoot you myself!"
"Don’t bother trying to explain. There ain't no explanation good enough." Curry was furious. "This is about Brownsville, isn't it? We missed out on that $35,000 because you were injured and no one else knew how to use nitro."
"We should be stickin' to jobs that only call for you crackin' the safe or blowin' it with dynamite. I keep tellin' you, Heyes, we don't need to use nitro. And we sure as hell don't need Kyle runnin' around loose with it!"
Curry threw his hat over on the hat rack and jerkily pulled off his coat, clumsy in his anger. He threw it over a chair. "Of all the damn fool ideas you've come up with, Heyes, this is—"
"It wasn't my idea!"
Kid Curry turned slowly, hands resting on his gunbelt.
Curry's eyes narrowed as he carefully scrutinized his partner. The Kid's tone was overly casual. "Whose idea was it?" Curry was sure he already knew.
Playing for time, Heyes secured the nitro. Picking up the leather case, he went to temporarily store it back in the closet. It was a relief to turn away from the slow, measured gaze that followed his every movement. He could feel Curry's stare drilling a hole in his spine.
By the time he turned around, Heyes had his expression under control. "It was the gang's idea. A few of the boys and I got together and talked it over. We decided that—"
"Evan wouldn't happen to be one of those boys, would he? Or was it purely Evan's idea in the first place?"
"Oh. He may have been there. Anyway—"
"It was Evan who brought it up, wasn't it?" Curry said, interrupting Heyes again.
Heyes cleared his throat. "Now that you mention it, he might have." Heyes bolted for the door. He got there right before Curry, blocking access.
Curry crowded into him. Nose to nose, blue eyes flashing, he spoke softly and with emphasis. "Get out of my way, Heyes."
Heyes was having trouble breathing normally with his hot-tempered partner pressed so tightly against him. He could almost literally feel the fiery anger resonating throughout the Kid's body. Heyes was starting to feel a bit warm, himself. Sweat beaded his upper lip. He took a shuddering breath and met the Kid's gaze.
He could never understand how anyone could call those incandescent blue eyes ice cold—they glowed like the blue flames that burned above the hottest fires.
Curry sure had no problem getting him all lit up.
Heyes swallowed, mouth going dry. It was time to sidetrack the Kid before he got too out of hand. Heyes had his own plans for dealing with Evan now that his partner was around to watch his back. Plans that would make it clear exactly why Heyes was the leader of the Devil's Hole gang – and why it was going to stay that way.
"Now, Kid. There's no reason for you to go gettin' all upset."
"No reason?" Curry growled. "Evan has been picking at you for days, trying to make you look like a fool. You know he wants to take over as leader of the gang!"
"No need to worry about that." Heyes tried to soothe the Kid. "He's lackin' two important qualifications." Heyes grinned. "My brains and you."
Curry wasn't amused.
"I didn't say he'd be any good at it, just that he wants you outa his way." Angry, but not quite ready to forcibly remove his partner, Curry leaned into Heyes. "And I think he's crazy enough to try anything to get what he wants." His hands hit the door on both sides of Heyes' face.
Heyes licked dry lips, desire making his knees a little wobbly. The challenge to his leadership was fast losing priority for his attention. He gazed wide-eyed at the Kid.
Curry fumed, oblivious to the effect he was having on his partner. "He was probably expecting Kyle to blow you sky high and me with you. Then he could step into your boots with no fuss." He snorted. "As if he has a chance in hell of filling them."
Heyes smoothed a hand slowly over the Kid's chest, enjoying the warmth of solid muscle through the soft material. "Wheat might have something to say about that." His other hand slid up the Kid's back, pressing gently.
Stepping in, Heyes curled his hands around Curry's neck, pulling their faces closer. Eyes soft with amused affection, Heyes rubbed his nose playfully against Curry's, enjoying the fleeting smile that creased Curry's face before the familiar look of stubborn anger returned.
Relaxing into his partner, despite his efforts to stay mad, Curry arched his head to the side as talented fingers soothed out the knotted muscles in his neck. "Can't leave you alone for a minute without you finding trouble."
Heyes slid his cheek along Curry's, enjoying the full-bodied shiver as he licked and blew into Curry's ear.
The Kid groaned, thrusting his hips forward. "Heyes, cut it out. You know what that does to me."
"I know." The evidence of what that did to Curry was pressing hard into Heyes' hip. "Why do you think I keep on doin' it?" Heyes nuzzled his throat, tracing along the jaw line to his mouth. He licked teasingly along Curry's parted lips.
The Kid was torn between taking care of the threat to his partner and plain taking care of his partner. Curry knew what Heyes was up to and wasn't going to make it easy.
Heyes kissed him.
The hell with it—Evan could wait. Anger melding into pure passion, Curry surged over his partner, arms sliding tight around the lean body. He slid his tongue in Heyes' mouth, taking control. All thoughts of violence and mayhem were forgotten. He had missed Heyes. Missed this.
He broke away from the kiss long enough to mention it. "Missed you." He devoured Heyes' mouth, coaxing him away from the door and over to the bed. Falling back on the mattress, he dragged Heyes down with him.
Heyes laughed as the bed creaked ominously. It wouldn't be the first bed that had been unable to stand up to the Kid's antics.
Curry rolled them over, flattening Heyes into the bedding. A satisfied smile curled up the corners of Heyes mouth and deepened the dimple in his cheek.
Playing with the Kid was like playing with nitroglycerin. Both could be unpredictable, explosive in nature. There was no doubt about it, though; handling the Kid was a hell of a lot more fun.
Heyes arched, groaning, into Curry's busy, wandering hands. Now that the Kid had been successfully side-railed, Heyes would follow through on his plans for Evan in the morning.
"Quit thinking, Heyes." Sharp teeth nipped his shoulder. His unbuttoned shirt was pulled out of his pants and the waistband opened.
The Kid stroked gentle fingers down Heyes' lean belly, mouth and tongue following the lightly furred trail.
Heyes quit thinking.