Oh, By The Way
- Relationships unravel or strengthen
- A long-kept secret is revealed
It was a beautiful night. Emily leaned on the balcony and took a deep breath. She had reveled in a long soak in the copper bathtub, then dried her hair in the evening air, enjoying the feeling of not being dusty.
The door to the balcony opened and Zahn leaned out. "I thought I'd find you here."
"Downstairs, in the middle of a hot game, naturally," he replied, closing the door behind him. "Does he think he owns you, Em?" he asked, putting his arms around her. Emily leaned into his embrace.
"He's just very protective," she whispered into his shirt. He'd bathed, too, and smelled wonderful. "He's been my only family since our parents—" she stopped speaking suddenly, biting her tongue. Zahn made a comforting sound but didn't ask. She adored him for that, he never pressed her for information she wasn't ready to share. "He raised me."
"I want to marry you, Em," whispered Zahn, his mouth close to her ear. "I'm not fooling around, you know. I love you."
"I love you, too, Zahn." She tilted her head to his, loving the feel of his mouth on hers. She wound her fingers in his thick hair, pressing herself against him, not caring about the scandalous fact she was wearing only her night dress. They had stolen many kisses and embraces, but rarely had it been leisurely, secure in the knowledge Lefty wouldn't reappear suddenly and catch them.
Zahn drew back first, his color heightened and his body tense. "I'd better stop, or I won't be able to," he said, sliding his hand down to grip hers. She held it tightly, loving how strong it was. "Why won't you marry me, Em?"
"I want to," she answered, touching his dear face. "You know I do. But I can't leave Lefty, not yet. He needs me."
"He can live with us, as long as he stops threatening to shoot me," said Zahn, his tone dry.
Emily laughed. "I don't think he's serious."
"I hope not. Em, I'm glad we have a minute to talk. There's something I've been wanting to tell you. Something important," Zahn started, when gunshots shattered the quiet evening. Up and down the streets gaslights flared up, and shouts echoed up and down the main street. Zahn pulled Emily off the balcony.
"Stay here," he commanded, his tone unlike one she'd ever heard from him before. For a second she actually obeyed him before she grabbed Lefty's long coat from the peg on the door and dashed out onto the landing behind him, pulling the coat around her shoulders.
When Emily reached the stairs, she saw Lefty slumped against the bar, his silver-inlaid revolver dangling from his right hand, his left pressed to his side. Blood stained his shirt, seeping between his fingers and dripping down his denim pants. She screamed her brother's name, rushing down to him.
"Stop!" roared Zahn, throwing the shooter up against the wall of the saloon, knocking over the card table . Cards and poker chips flew everywhere. "Stop this right now." His voice still carried that tone of authority. She froze, even though she wanted desperately to reach Lefty.
"You son of a bitch. This's between him and me," growled the man.
"You pick a fight with him, you pick a fight with me," replied Zahn. He straightened, his head lifting. He glanced at where Emily stood at the foot of the stairs and continued, "And I am Alexander Von Theissen, son of the Duke of New Amsterdam."