Notes: 3:10 To Yuma/Magnificent Seven/Highlander, a story in the 'Echoes the Sea' AU series, Ben Wade/OFC. This exists entirely due to the repetitive poking efforts of ninjababe and her posse. This story is set a few weeks after the events in strangevisitor7's story Child Of My Heart.
Characters: Ben Wade, Chris Larabee, Vin Tanner, Ezra Standish, Oren Travis, Charlotte Sparrow.
Summary: Ben Wade's arrival in New Mexico brings him full circle with his past.
On A Raven's Wing ~ Part Three
A shockwave of emotion ripped through her at hearing a voice she had never thought to hear again. It couldn’t be him; he couldn’t be here, not now. Trembling, she took a deep breath, trying to calm her racing pulse.
The hand over her mouth was removed as he drew them farther back into the rose garden, away from view of the house. “Ben—“ she began.
“Shhh,” the whisper of his breath drifted into her ear. He laid a hand against her neck, fingers caressing the side of her throat. “Still like a raven’s wing,” he said softly, his fingers drifting up to stroke her hair.
Shivering at the touch, she closed her eyes and remembered….
Galveston, Texas, 1850
Sleep slowly fell away, drawing back like the morning mist as the sun climbed into the sky. She could smell the sweet scent of the oleanders from outside the open bedroom window and hear the pounding of the surf practically outside the front door. Next to her on the bed came the sound of pencil scratching upon paper. She didn’t have to open her eyes to see it; Ben, sitting against the headboard, sketching in his ever present journal.
“Don’t move just yet,” came the soft command. “A few more minutes.”
Complying with his request, she let her mind drift, thinking about the last ten days and her unexpected liaison with the ruggedly handsome Ben Wade. She had been the respectable widow and business woman for so many years now, leading her very quiet life in Virginia, that she had found herself more than a little shocked at this turn of events. Oh, how different things would have been had Livy accompanied her on this trip; never would she have carried on in such a manner had her maid been with her. But Charlotte had left Livy behind in Richmond so that if Maude were to show up, leaving twelve-year-old Ezra on Charlotte’s doorstep, there would be someone there to care for him till her return.
She let the sound of his pencil as he sketched lull her back into a doze. Charlotte wasn’t sure why, but his drawing her seemed more intimate a thing than the bed they shared, and it disconcerted her. More disconcerting was viewing the completed pieces; seeing herself through his eyes. It made her feel more exposed and vulnerable than she could ever recall in the century she’d lived. Ben Wade made her doubt, made her uncertain, but at the same time, she wanted him, desired his touch and the look in his eyes when he took her to bed. He was young, and he was mortal, but he made her feel alive in a way she hadn’t felt for decades.
Quiet fell and the bed shifted with his weight as he leaned over, running a hand down her bare shoulder, before gently pulling her onto her back. Opening her eyes, she reached up, stroking his cheek, the new growth of his beard gently scratching under her fingertips.
Snagging her hand with his, he drew it to his lips, kissing her palm. “Thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck.” Ben was never without a suitable Biblical quotation, no matter the occasion. She found it to be a charming quirk of his personality.
“How much better is thy love than wine!” she replied, a smug smile on her face, having actually been able to recall the next verse.
“Very good,” he said with a grin.
“And what then is my reward?” she asked mischievously, running a hand down his bare chest.
The smile he gave her made her forget how to breathe for just a moment. “A pleasurable one,” he promised as he grasped her wrists, pinning them down onto the pillow above her head before his lips took hers in a hungry kiss….
New Mexico, 1866
Ben released his hold on her, stepping away, watching Charlotte as she turned to him. Wrapping her arms around her chest, she looked up into the face of her former lover. The last sixteen years had not been kind ones, and they showed in every line and crease that etched his face. His beautiful blue-green eyes held a weariness that hadn’t been there when last they’d been together; and something else, that might have been regret. Inwardly she grieved for that young man she had been unable to save.
“Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee – Song of Solomon, chapter four, verse seven.” He reached out, stroking her cheek with a fingertip. “And so you shall forever be.”
She took a step back, his closeness too much to bear. “Dear God, Ben, what are you doing here?” she demanded. “You’re a wanted man!”
He flashed her a saucy grin that was more like his younger self. “I’m always a wanted man, Charlotte. Something I pride myself on.”
“It isn’t funny!” she exclaimed angrily. “It’s not safe for you to be here, to be near me!”
“You mean your friend Chris Larabee? And the other men that pass for the law in Four Corners?” he said dismissively. “Oh, I’ve made a point of taking in the lay of the land. But don’t concern yourself, my timeless raven,” he said on seeing her shocked expression, “I’m certain I could take Larabee. In fact, I wouldn’t mind finding out which of us is the quicker draw.” He sounded contemplative.
Her chest constricted at his words, knowing the kind of man Ben was, and the man he’d become. When it came down to it, she didn’t know which of the two would be victorious in such a confrontation, but instinct told her it would be Ben. No, she could not allow it to happen, even if that meant she killed Ben herself. Chris would not be the victim of her poor judgment sixteen years ago.
Then he laughed softly. “But you would see me dead before you’d risk Larabee, wouldn’t you, Charlotte?”
“Ben,” she began to protest, hating how he still seemed to be able to see into her soul, “it isn’t—“
“It isn’t what? Like I think? You’re just friends? And you wouldn’t gun me down now because you couldn’t sixteen years ago?”
“Stop it, Ben, please!” she entreated. “I don’t want anyone to die. Your lives are already far too short, please; I’m begging you, walk away. Go to Mexico, start fresh. If you ever cared about me, leave it be!”
“If I ever cared about you?” He closed the space between them with one long stride, taking her face in his hands. “How can you say that, Charlotte Sparrow? Can you have any doubt how I felt for you?”
Swallowing, she blinked back threatening tears. “I’m sorry, Ben. For then, for now. But please don’t make me sorry for what’s to be. Don’t make me regret loving you through all the centuries yet to come.”