That was the craziest night of Danny’s life to that point. Butch’s too for that matter. They never lost a stitch of clothing and all they did was kiss but that’s all either one of them seemed to need or want from each other. It could have easily gone further but neither of them seemed able to take the next fatal step.
Danny woke up and froze when she found herself wrapped in Butch’s arms on the bed he’d been using, but as it turns out she wasn’t the first one to wake. “Don’t,” Butch growled in her ear.
“Don’t what? Lay claim to a little sanity?”
“Nope. Because if you do then I have to.”
“Then you’ve still got whatever you came down with last night. Looks like I need to call a quack.”
“Neither,” he breathed on her neck causing her to shiver despite her best of intentions. “Just tell me I didn’t imagine it. Tell me that Daniella.”
Danny sighed. “I’d be lying if I did and I don’t do that anymore than necessary. I have enough sins to answer for. But Butch …”
“Stop. Just … stop. And for once listen to me … and actually hear what I’m saying. I want you.”
Danny shook her head but Butch stopped her by nipping at her neck. “Yeah. Yeah I do. And I’ve wanted you for a while. I was ashamed that I did. Anyway I looked at it … you age, your job, you not having anyone to … I … dammit,” he groaned into her hair.
“Sure could have fooled me,” Danny said smiling to cover her confusion and hurt from some of the things that had happened over the years. “And likely you are fooling yourself now. Got gratitude or something all mixed up with being depressed over things and somehow not believing you’ll ever be able to do better. Well …”
“You definitely got a problem shutting up Daniella Trespalacios. But I know a way to fix that.”
They got lost in kissing once again for almost an hour until Danny put a stop to it. “Butch … I can’t. I can’t do this to you and I can’t do this to me. I won’t be anyone’s private play thing and there’s no way you can make it public. I’ve got … responsibilities. So do you. Damn you anyway ‘cause you know I’ll never be able to forget the feel of you … oh God. I’ll never be able to forget.”
Butch was surprised at the pain he saw on her face. “Daniella …”
“No Butch. As soon as your brain comes out of the fog you’ll see that I’m right. You’re a law man and I’m just a bar maid and …”
Butch snorted and only let Danny pull away so far. “In case you haven’t noticed I don’t have a job and if you’re ‘just’ a bar maid I’ll eat my horse’s saddle. I’ve watched you Daniella, watched you close the last couple of months. You are a bar maid out of habit and because it keeps your fingers on the pulse of this town, not because you need to be.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Yes you do. I know about all of your other businesses. If you weren’t paying for the boys and trying to set some aside for their future my guess is you’d be doing pretty well for yourself.”
Danny went completely still. “Butch …”
“I’m not going to say anything to anyone. My guess is you have it set so that none of your businesses know the other exists … and since you have small time partners that benefit from the secrecy they are more than willing to keep their mouths shut.” Butch tugged Danny over so that she was between Butch and the wall of the RV. “And I’m not going to blackmail you over what I know. If anything it makes it harder on me knowing I don’t have much to offer right now. But I’ll work on my end,” he said with a kiss on one corner of her mouth. “And you work on your end,” he said with a kiss on the other corner of her mouth. “And eventually we’ll work things out so that we can have it all.”
Danny snorted. “Butch, I don’t believe in fairy tales. I never have.”
“Who wants a damn fairy tale when you can have the real thing?” Butch sighed when he realized that Danny was going to fight him. He should have known it, did, but had hoped for once she wouldn’t. “Daniella, I’m not saying this is going to be easy. I’m not even saying it is going to happen quick … I haven’t forgotten we got us a damn situation hanging over our heads … but I’m willing to try.”
“Why?!” Danny finally snapped. “Why? I know what you think of me. I …”
“I …. Excuse me? What did you just say?” Danny asked, totally flummoxed by what Butch had just said.
“I said forgive me. Sometimes when a man wants something, and wants it so bad … he … he looks for every reason that he can’t or shouldn’t have it.” Butch reached out and brushed a lock of hair off of Danny’s face. “You were always a beautiful girl Daniella … and then you grew into a handsome woman long before you should have. I watched men want you for a long time. I didn’t think … didn’t think it was possible that someone hadn’t … hadn’t …”
Danny stiffened and finally managed to sit up. “Oh and for some reason you are suddenly sure. It’s not like I didn’t just spend the night with you and …”
Butch sat up as well. “Hush. You talk so damn much. And you aren’t listening. I was jealous … damn jealous. I listened to what people said and believed it even when there wasn’t any evidence. That makes me a piss poor investigator. I was looking for a reason not to take a chance.”
“Oh and you’re suddenly sure,” Danny repeated derisively.
“I was sure days ago. You blushed a lot more than a loose woman would when you were helping me. Oh, you likely took care of your brothers enough while they were little but your face gave you away that you were seeing a man for the first time.”
“Shut up Butch,” Danny said roughly.
“Uh uh. And last night. Your kisses … they were so hot I was scalding … but part of it was how innocent they tasted.”
“You’ve lost your mind. Innocence is not a taste. Now m …”
Butch blocked her in. “Yeah it is. And I tasted it on you. And we are going to get this worked out before I let you go and I don’t give a damn what kind of man that makes me look. I want you Daniella and I mean to have you.”
“Well I’m not for sale.”
“Not even at the price of my soul?”
The complete outrageousness of such a statement coming out of Butch’s mouth … especially being directed at her … had Danny gasping for air like a catfish thrown up on the bank of the river. “I’m calling a quack … or maybe even the priest. You’ve obviously been poisoned … or possessed … or something. You can’t mean this stuff you are saying. You can’t have thought this through. You can’t …”
“I can Daniella. I can mean it and I do. And no doubt it is going to take some time for us to work it out but work it out we will. It could take months … maybe longer. You’re right that we’ve … that we’ve both got responsibilities. And there is this situation hanging over us … but there’s other things too.”
Unable to suppress her suspicious nature Danny asked carefully, “What other things?”
Cautiously Butch answered, “I wasn’t gone down South just for a case. I had some personal business to take care of.”
“Yeah. I found out … well … like everyone else I’ve wanted to know what happened to my family after Flare Day.”
Carefully Danny asked, “Did you find what you were looking for?”
“Partially.” Danny waited him out. “I found my brother. He’s married and is working an orchard with his father in law. I remember the family from our old neighborhood but don’t know them well. Wayne – that’s my brother’s name – said he’d thought I was dead from all the talk of the time of what had happened in Gainesville. And I believe him. He almost couldn’t seem to let himself believe it was me for a couple of hours but once he had …” Butch stopped and swallowed. “It was … it was harder to leave than I thought. And … and I stopped at my parents’ and sister’s grave on the way back. Well, not their grave exactly but the memorial site where their ashes are buried. They were killed during the civil unrest that followed Flare Day. I … I haven’t even processed all of it yet. It wasn’t just Wayne … one of my uncles and a couple of cousins live not too far from Wayne.”
“Sounds like a lot to process.”
“It has been … still is. I need to send a letter down to them and let them know I didn’t just take off and forget about them. At the same time … this stuff …”
“You want to try and protect them. That’s how I feel about the boys.”
Butch nodded. “Yeah. And I’ve been thinking about that too.”
“’Cause it is all part and parcel of this … what we have to figure out. If I want you, the boys are part of the package.”
“Just how long have you been thinking about this?”
“Not long enough,” Butch admitted. “I don’t have any of it figured out yet. But I will.”
Danny chuckled. “Butch I’m not one of your cases. You aren’t going to ‘figure me out’ in case you have figured that out yet. I haven’t even said I’m going to go along with this lunacy. You’re just feeling cooped up and …”
“Don’t,” Butch growled and Danny got the feeling real fast that there were some things Butch wasn’t going to let pass. “I’ve said I haven’t got it figured out … yet. But I will Daniella. But one thing I won’t stand for is wondering if some man is going to be able to come along and …”
“Butch, you say what you are leaning towards saying and you can forget all of it. I am not some bone to be fought over. I am not something to be bought and sold. I am not …”
Butch kissed her again and breathed, “Damn straight you’re not. I may not know exactly what you are yet but I’m for damn sure whatever it is I want it. And that means I’m willing to work for it. Just tell me woman that I’m the only one … tell me Daniella … dammit I need …”
“Hush,” Danny said putting her hand over his mouth stopping his words and his kisses. “I don’t know what you are Butch and I’m pretty sure you are going to wake up from this dementia fairly soon. But if it means a thing to you, you are the only one I would tolerate manhandling me like this … and saying such lunatic things to me. And I’m never going to say anything to anyone about it either so once you do get your mind back from whatever vacation it has gone on, we can go back to being … friends … or whatever it is that we are. I need to know there is someone on this planet that I can trust.”
“You trust me then,” Butch breathed.
“I must. No matter what people have said over the years, you’re the only man I’ve ever let come through the RV door that I haven’t sent out again head first and more than bruised up.”
“Good,” Butch said right before he tried to start kissing her again.
There was a loud knocking on the RV. Cindy Brewster called through the door, “Danny?! Oh my God Danny, you’ve got to come, you and Mr. Pinder both ... right away … there’s been trouble!”