Learning the Hard Way (by Terri)

Summary:   WARNING:  THIS STORY IS SEXUALLY EXPLICIT.  IF YOU ARE EASILY OFFENDED PLEASE DO NOT CONTINUE

Adam has a pleasurable time with his favourite saloon girl, Hoss shows he’s not so shy with Bessie Sue and Ben proves there’s life in the old dog yet.  This all takes place one Saturday afternoon.  But what of Joe??

The youngest and most inexperienced of the Cartwright men experiences an induction into both love and pain he is not likely to forget.  Rated: MA  WC 27,000

 

Learning the Hard Way

 

“Come on Adam honey, surely you have time to come upstairs for an hour or so; you can’t tell me you prefer mending fences?”

Adam smiled knowingly at the girl before him, but shook his head.  “That’s very tempting Susie,” he replied.  “And believe me it’s a whole lot better than mending fences, but….”

“No buts Adam,” the girl cajoled, snuggling in closer to him and twirling her fingers round the hairs that peeped out from his open shirt.  “A girl can start to feel neglected you know.”

Adam sighed and taking hold of the exploring hand, he raised it to his lips and kissed it gently.  “Ah if only my life was my own I would be up those stairs in an instant,” he declared.  “But in the next five minutes my two brothers are going to walk through that door and I need to be here.”

“Now Adam,” Susie persisted.  “Those brothers of yours are big enough to look after themselves.  I’ll get Betty over there to give them a beer and take care of them.”

Adam laughed out loud and pulled the girl to him for a quick hug.  “No can do Susie. Now why don’t you be a good girl and get me a beer.”

With that Adam walked over and sat down at the nearest table.  Susie followed a minute later, a beer in her hand and a saucy grin on her face.

“I’ve never known a man play so hard to get Adam Cartwright.”

Adam looked up at her and winked.  “I didn’t play so hard to get on Saturday night,” he reminded her mischievously.  “You weren’t complaining then.”

“That was five days ago Adam; a girl has needs you know.”

Adam sighed once more.  “And I have work to do.  A ranch our size takes some looking after.  Which reminds me where are those brothers of mine?”

Susie sat herself down next to Adam and took a sip from his beer.  “You worry too much,” she chided.  Then looking over to where a number of the other girls were sitting she added, “Julie’s going to be sad she missed Little Joe, she really has a thing for him.”

Adam’s smiling face suddenly became serious.  “What do you mean; Little Joe’s just a kid!”

Susie raised her eyes to the ceiling.  “Take another look at him Adam.  That boy is growing up fast and Julie has already decided she will be the one.”

Adam didn’t like the way the conversation was going.  “The one for what?” he asked.

“To make a man of him, of course,” Susie laughed.  “The boy’s ripe and Julie has already decided to do the picking Adam.”

As far as Adam was concerned, their fun conversation had just come to an end; Little Joe was only seventeen and, in his opinion, still had quite a bit of growing up to do.

“Well you tell Julie to keep away from Little Joe,” Adam warned pointing a finger in her direction.  “That boy gets into enough trouble as it is”

Susie shrugged.  “Oh I don’t think you need worry about Julie, she hasn’t been seen for days.  Everyone’s pretty sure she took off with Randy Simpson.”

“Randy Simpson?” Adam queried.  “Last time I heard he was still in prison.”

“Well he was,” Susie confirmed.  “But he got out a couple of months ago and Julie’s been running round with him ever since.  Seems they were having a thing together before he got sent down and they just took up where they left off when he got out.”

“As long as it keeps her away from Little Joe, I don’t care who she runs round with,”

Susie couldn’t help but laugh at how protective Adam became when it came to his kid brother.  “Oh you don’t have to worry so much about Joe, Adam.  Your Pa has already had a word with Molly and all the girls have been warned off.”

“Pa?” Adam asked in surprise.  “When’s Pa been talking to Molly?”

“Oh I can’t go giving the customers secrets away Adam, that wouldn’t be right,” Susie said with a playful smile.  “Let’s just say that your Pa and our Molly are good friends and leave it at that.”

Adam didn’t get time to ponder on the implications of Susie’s words, when the doors to the saloon swung open and his brothers walked in.

“Two beers,” Hoss called as he crossed to the bar and leaned forward resting his elbows on the counter.

Little Joe followed his middle brother, but he turned his back to the bar and leaned back surveying the room.

As Joe stood there, Betty took her leave of the other girls and walked towards him.  “Hi there handsome,” she drawled, letting her hands run down the length of her body accentuating her curves.

Susie leaned into Adam and whispered.  “Take a good look at your little brother Adam, that’s some weapon he’s packing and it’s anything but small.  I think it’s time you dropped the ‘little’ and started calling him Joe.”

To Adam’s annoyance, Joe was obviously enjoying Betty’s attentions and the growing bulge in his pants was testament to this.

Adam rose to his feet and as he walked over to the bar he gave Betty a look that sent her scuttling back to the other women.

“Drink up boys, we have work to do.”

“We only just got here,” Joe whined.

“And you’re only just leaving,” Adam snapped.  “Now let’s get going.”

With that Adam walked out of the saloon and down the street.

“What’s got into him?” Joe asked; a puzzled expression on his face.

“Beats me,” Hoss replied, equally perplexed.  “But whatever it is, we’d better get going, he’s downright ornery when he’s in this mood.”

With a shrug of his shoulders at Susie and Betty, Joe gulped down the rest of his beer and followed his brothers out of the saloon.

***

It was early Saturday morning and the house was just coming to life.  Ben arrived downstairs first to find Hop Sing busy in the kitchen preparing breakfast.  Hoping to have a few moments to himself, Ben picked up the papers lying on his desk, wandered over to his favourite chair and settled down to read.

Hop Sing, without being asked, arrived a few minutes later with a steaming cup of coffee in his hand and placed it down in front of Ben.

“Ah thank you Hop Sing,” Ben declared.  “You always know just what I need.”

Ben’s peace and quiet was short lived as the banging of a bedroom door and heavy footsteps across the landing shattered the stillness.  “Little Joe you been in my room again?” Hoss’ voice boomed out.

“Why would I go in your room?” Joe called sleepily from the safety of his bed.

“To take my new knife that’s why,” Hoss bellowed back at him.

“How come you think I took your knife?” Joe screeched; all signs of sleep now gone.

“Cause you was the one asking to borrow it, that’s why.”

“Too mean to lend it to me though weren’t you,” Joe retorted, deciding the best form of defence was attack.

Just then Adam’s bedroom door opened and he sauntered out onto the landing.  “We would lend you things little brother if you gave them back every once in a while.”

“Who asked you anyway?” Joe grumbled.

Ben decided it was time to intervene, “Joseph, come downstairs please.”

“Thanks a bunch guys,” Joe muttered under his breath as he filed past his brothers and leaned over the banister.  “I’m not dressed yet Pa, you want me to get washed up first.”

“Five minutes Joseph,” Ben warned.

Joe raced back to his room and started to wash, he knew when his Pa said five minutes he meant five minutes.  Right on time Joe descended the stairs and joined the rest of the family at the breakfast table.

Ben allowed them to finish eating before he finally turned to his youngest son.  “Joseph we have rules in this house as you are well aware.  One of those rules is to respect each other’s property and that means not taking, or borrowing, without permission.”

“Yes sir,” Joe replied not raising his eyes from his plate.

“Now I expect you to return your brother’s knife and keep out of his room in future.  Is that clear?”

“Yes sir,” Joe answered once again, hoping it was the end of the matter.

“So what do you boys have planned for this afternoon once your chores are finished?” Ben asked, choosing to ignore his youngest sons sigh of relief.

“I’ve got business in town Pa,” Adam replied, but he didn’t bother to elaborate as to what that business may be.

“How about you Hoss?” Ben asked turning to his middle son.

Hoss shrugged.  “Mr Hightower’s putting up a new barn Pa, so I promised Bessie Sue I would go over and give a hand.”

Joe snorted derisively, which had the effect of turning his father’s attention on him.

“And what are your plans Joseph?”

Joe had plans, but not ones he wanted to share with his family.  “I was thinking about joining Mitch and a few of the boys over at Seth’s place Pa.”

Ben frowned.  “Just make sure you keep out of trouble Joseph.  I’m not altogether happy about you hanging around with Seth Pruitt.”

Joe knew only too well his father’s opinion of Seth and he was now sorry that he had mentioned him.  As it happened he had no intention of visiting Seth or Mitch for that matter, he just didn’t want his father getting any inclination of what he was really up to.

This was shaky ground for Joe; to lie to his father came under the heading ‘Cardinal Sin’ and the consequences of being found out just didn’t bear thinking about.   But Joe reasoned that it wasn’t really a lie, as he had planned to join Mitch and Seth that Saturday, so had in fact technically been ‘thinking about it’, but what Joe had seen earlier that week had caused him to change his mind.  On Wednesday Joe had been riding fence at one of the more remote parts of the Ponderosa when he had come across a herd of wild horses grazing on the high pasture.  There was one particular horse that outshone all the others and Joe had not been able to think of anything else for the past few days.

Now catching wild horses was a dangerous business and not one that should be taken lightly and certainly not on one’s own, so that was where the little white lie came in and Joe had already justified the deceit in his own mind.

Ben saw nothing in his youngests face to alarm him and Hoss was too busy thinking about his time with Bessie Sue to worry about his little brother, but Adam was not so easily deceived.  Joe looked up to find his eldest brother’s eyes boring into him and he had to look away quickly before his face betrayed him even more.

“Well that’s settled then,” Ben was saying as he rose from the table.  “I’ll see you boys at supper time.”

***

Later that afternoon Adam rode into town, making only a short detour to the mercantile, before heading over to the saloon.  As soon as he made his entrance, Susie sashayed over to him, her whole countenance being one of expectancy.

“Don’t happen to have any needs that require satisfying do you Mr Cartwright?” she asked with a cheeky grin.

Adam crossed his arms in front of him and, leaning back slightly, he looked the girl up and down from head to toe.  “You must be a mind reader Miss James?”

“Well follow me good sir and we’ll see what we can do for you?”

No one paid much attention as Susie led the handsome young man upstairs and into her bedroom, it was a common event after all.  The room itself was quite sparse, but it was clean and comfortable and Susie tried as best she could to make it her own.  But Adam never noticed the surroundings for, once the door was closed, he only had eyes for the beautiful girl in front of him.

Susie made to loosen her dress but Adam stopped her.  “No need to rush,” he said softly.  “We have all afternoon.”

“Anything you say cowboy,” Susie readily agreed.  Adam Cartwright was by far the best lover she had ever had and if he wanted to make it last, she wasn’t about to complain.

Adam removed his hat and gun belt and placed it on the dresser before sitting down on the only chair in the room.

“Now undress for me,” he said seductively.  “Only this time I want you to take it nice and slowly.”

Susie became all coy, teasingly allowing him to see only a little bit of flesh at a time.  Turning her back to him she hitched up her dress and rolled down her stockings one at a time.  Once removed, she walked over and draped the flimsy pieces of silky material over Adam’s shoulders, allowing the sheer fabric to caress his face and neck.

Adam instinctively reached out for her but she stepped back away from him.  “Slowly,” she reminded him and he relaxed into the chair once more.

With a little more confidence Susie’s long slender fingers began to unlace the bodice of her dress, pulling at the material until it slid from her shoulders and bunched round her middle.  It took no more than a little movement of her hips for the dress to continue its downward track and eventually lie crumpled on the floor.

With a dainty movement, Susie stepped away from the dress and, looking over at Adam, she placed her hands on her tiny waist.  “Well?” she asked, rocking her hips from side to side.  “What do you want me to do now?”

Adam hadn’t realised how long he had been holding his breath and in husky voice he whispered.  “Don’t stop, keep going.”

Dressed only in camisole and drawers Susie was a ravishing sight.  Her breasts were large but firm and her hips looked curvaceous, accentuated against her nipped in waist.

“Let your hair down,” Adam instructed.  “I love to see your hair hanging free.”

Susie was happy to oblige, there was something about making love with her hair hanging down her back that gave her a sense of complete abandonment.  Removing one pin at a time, Susie’s hair began to fall forward over her face in a ringlet of curls.  With the last pin between her fingers, she shook her head like a dog trying to remove water from its coat after a bath, sending her golden mane flying in all directions.  When she stopped her hair hung loose across her shoulders framing her perfect face and Adam smiled with satisfaction.  This was turning out better than he could have imagined.

Adam was loving the slow strip and was keen to keep the momentum going as long as possible, but even he had limitations and the bulge in his pants was starting to become uncomfortable.

As Susie pulled the laces of her camisole out from inside the tiny holes, Adam sucked in his breath and spread his legs further apart.  His pants had never felt so tight.

Susie couldn’t help but see his predicament and her next movement did nothing to ease the pressure.  Breathing in deeply Susie got the desired effect she wanted.  Her breasts expanded considerably and the flimsy garment covering them literally fell to the side revealing her orbs in all their glory.

This proved too much for Adam, he couldn’t sit still any longer, and in less than two strides he was at her side and pulling her into a fierce hug.  With strong arms he lifted her bodily from the ground and carried her to the bed.  Leaning forward he kissed her gently at first, but then as his ardour grew he forced open her lips so that he could explore the rest of her mouth with his tongue.

Susie was the first one to move things on.  Breaking her mouth from Adam’s she pushed his head downwards and thrust her breasts towards him.  “Please,” she begged, and Adam was never one to disappoint a lady.  Taking each of her breasts in turn he squeezed them between his large hands, rubbing his forefinger and thumb over each nipple in turn and tweaking them until the firm buds stood proudly erect.

Once his fingers had done the preparation he leaned forward and sticking out his tongue he traced a wet line from one areola to another.  As Susie’s body squirmed beneath his administrations he finally sucked each teat in turn, causing the girl beneath him to yell with passion.

For Adam pleasure was a shared experience and he got nearly as much satisfaction from the giving as well as the taking.  Before giving in to his needs, he knew his own enjoyment would be enhanced if he satisfied his partner first.  With a deftness born out of lots of practice he loosened the ties holding up Susie’s drawers and, without removing his mouth from her breasts, he peeled them from her body.

Adam sat up and smiled down at the naked girl below him.  Her body was covered in a light film of perspiration as her body temperature continued to rise and her cheeks flushed with an excitement she could not hide.

Spreading her legs wide, Adam watched the ecstasy on her face as his fingers slowly traced a line up and down her labia, causing the lips to open as her secretions made his fingers wet.  As the wetness increased he slid his fingers inside of her and watched in fascination as he witnessed the build up of her climax.

With a scream that was probably heard throughout the saloon and beyond, Susie left no one in any doubt that she had reached orgasm.

As soon as she had breath back in her body, Susie was on her knees on the bed and loosening the buttons to Adam’s pants.  “Oh Adam,” she purred.  “No one does it for me like you do.”

Adam didn’t know how much longer he could hold it together and as Susie worked on his pants, he almost ripped the buttons from his shirt in his haste to remove it.  Necessity made him stand from the bed so that he could kick off his boots and pull off his remaining clothes.

When he was finally naked, it was no surprise to Susie to see that his manhood was standing firm and erect from his body.  She could hardly believe he had the control to hold it together for as long as he did, lesser men would have spilled their load before now.

Scrambling from the bed Susie knelt down between his legs and as Adam let out a moan of sheer joy she ran her tongue the length of his shaft, up and down, before taking each of his testicles into her mouth in turn.  Much as Adam was enjoying the stimulus he was fast getting to the stage of no return and he pulled Susie’s head upwards until he was able to spear her mouth with his tool.

Susie gagged at first, the sheer length of him filling her beyond capacity, but once she got over the initial shock she sucked him long and hard.  Adam could hold back no longer and, with his hands on either side of Susie’s head, his hips bucked towards her faster and faster as his orgasm approached.  With a triumphant yell, Adam finally reached an explosive climax, shooting his seed over and over again into Susie’s willing mouth.

When it was over Adam almost staggered towards the bed and lay down.  “Oh that was wonderful” he declared as Susie climbed up beside him.  “Just give me ten minutes and then we’ll really have some fun.”

Susie looked at his serious face and started to grin.  “Adam Cartwright,” she giggled.  “You are insatiable.  I’ve never known a man with so much stamina.”

Adam raised an eyebrow, “Are you complaining?  You know I don’t get to come into town as often as I would like.”

Susie shook her head, “Oh you’ll never find me complaining Adam, believe me.”

For the next thirty minutes or so Susie lay in the crux of Adam’s arm with her head on his chest as they both rested quietly with their eyes closed, not speaking.  Susie was the first to stir and with open eyes, she began to stroke the hair on Adam’s chest with little circular movements.

“Hmmm, that’s nice,” Adam muttered sleepily.

Susie smiled to herself as her hand movements began to move lower and lower, until the object of her intentions became her sole focus.  “That better?” she asked, knowing full well what the answer would be as his flaccid tool began to resurrect once more.

This time Susie decided to take the initiative and sitting up she straddled Adam’s torso so that she could lower herself slowly onto his fully erect penis.  Now completely awake Adam placed his hands on either side of her hips and kept pace for pace with Susie’s rocking movements.

Their lovemaking was a slow build up, but once they got going there was no stopping them.   Before long Adam had turned the tables and Susie was lying under him as he brought them both to a shuddering climax.

Afterwards there was no time to linger or relax, it was already nearing 5pm and Adam needed to be heading for home.

Susie sat naked in the bed; the covers pulled up to her chest, and asked not for the first time.  “How come you’re not married Adam; I can’t believe some good woman hasn’t snapped you up before now?”  This was becoming a standing joke between them.

Adam raised his eyes to the ceiling; everyone, including his father, seemed to wonder the same thing, but he answered Susie the way he always did.  “Guess I just haven’t met the right woman yet Susie.”

“Well when you do, just remember I’ll still be here,” Susie said wistfully.

Adam looked at the girl in the bed and the smile died on his lips.  He liked Susie, he liked her a lot, but that was as far as it went, she would never mean any more to him or him to her.  Their passionate coming together was mutually satisfying, but once it was over they both went on with their separate lives.  But when Adam married he knew it would be for life, he didn’t say the words to Susie but she knew, when that day came he would never visit her upstairs ever again.  Adam would be a faithful husband.

***

Ben had waited until the boys had gone about their business before he changed his clothes and saddled his horse.  He was not in the habit of keeping secrets from his family, but there were some things he didn’t feel able to discuss with his sons and one of them was Molly Baker.

Molly had worked at the saloon in Virginia City for about six years and several other saloons before that.  It was her job to keep the girls in line and also to make sure that over inebriated cowboys didn’t cause too much trouble.  Molly’s easygoing manner made her perfect for the job.  The saloon girls looked at her as a mother figure, but knew when to tow the line and the cowboys found her an enchanting but strong woman; one they did well to take notice of.  Ben’s relationship with Molly had developed over a long period of time, but funnily enough it had been his youngest son that had brought them together.

At thirteen years of age Little Joe had heard stories from older boys of a picture that hung behind the bar in the Bucket of Blood saloon.  By all accounts the picture was of a woman; but then again not just any woman, this one was of a completely naked woman.  To a young boy at the start of puberty this was the sort of thing dreams were made of and Joe lay awake at night trying to devise a way to get into the saloon without being noticed, or more to the point, without his father or brothers finding out.

Before Joe took on this task he wanted to make sure that it was worth his while and he tried on several occasions to ask Adam about the picture, but just when he would finally have his eldest brother’s attention his nerve would give out and he would become all tongue tied and change the subject.  Hoss on the other hand he had no compunction with, he constantly asked him questions and he didn’t mince his words.  At nineteen years of age, Hoss was a frequent visitor to the saloon in question, but he knew better than to discuss such things with his impressionable younger brother and he refused to be drawn on the subject, no matter how petulant Joe became.

On one sunny Saturday afternoon, Joe and his friends had it all worked out.  Three of them would cause a bit of a rumpus by running into the saloon and distracting everyone’s attention.  While all focus was on them, Joe would slink through the doors unnoticed and hide beneath one of the tables.

The plan went better than expected.  Three of Joe’s friends were playing robustly outside the establishment and then, as pre arranged, they started chasing each other around before darting into the saloon.  Immediately the patrons were on their feet complaining bitterly about the disturbance and yelling at the interlopers.  Chairs were knocked over and drinks were spilled as everyone focused on getting the kids back into the street.  Taking his opportunity, Joe slipped into the saloon and, choosing a quiet spot in the far corner, he slipped under a table without being noticed.

By the time Joe settled onto the floor he was shaking like a leaf; an adventure was always better in the planning than the execution.  It took a good five minutes for order to be restored and the men went back to their drinking.

To Joe’s disappointment he was not able to get a clear view of the bar due to a handful of men standing right in front of the table he was under and he was beginning to think the whole charade may have been in vain.  Long minutes ticked by and Joe was beginning to get bored and rather nauseous.  The sick feeling wasn’t surprising; the floor of a saloon was not somewhere that anyone with any sense would choose to be and Joe looked round in disgust at his surroundings.  Things were not turning out as he had planned.

As Joe was pondering his dilemma, the sound of his eldest brother’s voice struck fear into his heart.

“Just a quick one Hoss then we’ll need to get going.”

“What about Pa and Little Joe?” Hoss asked.  “I thought they were going to meet us round at Bessie’s café for something to eat.”

“That’s not until 4 o’clock,” Adam replied, rolling his eyes to the ceiling.  “We’ve still got time to have a look at those horses before we meet up with them.  Don’t worry Hoss I’ll have you back in time to feed your face.”

“That’s all right then,” Hoss smiled.  “But if we’re going to look at those horses, maybe we should collect Little Joe along the way and take him with us.  Pa’s meeting doesn’t finish for another couple of hours and if the boy’s with us, at least it will keep him out of mischief.”

“Good idea.  Well drink up little brother, we still have to find the scamp.”

Joe hardly dared to breath he was so frightened.  If Adam discovered his whereabouts he was dead.  Hoss could be persuaded not to tell Pa; a few crocodile tears would see to that, but not Adam.

“Come on, come on,” Joe said to himself.  “How long does it take to drink a pint of beer for lands sakes?”

After what seemed forever, the brothers eventually left and Joe was faced with yet another dilemma.  What would they do when they couldn’t find him?  Would they go and get Pa?  Things were going from bad to worse.

Just then Joe’s problems were all cast aside; the men in front of the table were moving and he was able to get a clear look at the bar for the first time.  Joe’s excitement could hardly be contained; it was true, it was all true.  The picture was there in all its glory and the woman was indeed naked, completely naked.

Joe’s experience of women was very limited and he had never seen a naked one before, not in the flesh, not in a picture, not even in a drawing.  The descriptions he had been given second hand didn’t do justice to the picture he was looking at and he could feel his temperature rising as the blood rushed to a certain part of his anatomy.  His mouth hung open and his eyes almost popped out of their sockets, oh boy wait until he told his friends all the details.

The hand that grabbed Joe’s collar and dragged him from underneath the table was anything but gentle.  Turning him round to face her, Molly Baker looked down sternly at the small boy in front of her.

“Just what do you think you’re doing?” she growled, making the boy in front of her almost wet his pants with fright.

Joe couldn’t find his tongue to answer and Molly almost laughed when she looked down at him.  The mop of chestnut curls framed a perfect face and the eyes were a sparkling shade of green.  She was sure she had seen this cute little rascal befor

“Aren’t you one of the Cartwright boys?”

Swallowing hard before answering, Joe finally found his voice.  “Y-y-yes Ma’am.”

“What’s your name?”

“Joe, er Joe Cartwright.”

“Well what are you doing here Joe Cartwright?” Molly asked, still not relinquishing her hold on him, just in case he decided to make a run for it.

Joe’s face immediately turned a deep shade of red and his eyes fleetingly looked over at the bar.  How could he tell this woman about the picture?

“Oh, I see,” Molly nodded as understanding dawned upon her.  “Now come with me young man, I think we ought to find your father.  A saloon is no place for a boy your age.”

There was no time for protestations as Molly took him by the hand and pulled him towards the exit.  Before they made it outside, one of the saloon girls, who Joe later found out was named Julie, stepped forward and stroked him across the face.

“Well hello there handsome,” she cooed.  “Now you make sure you come back here in a couple of years, I’ll be waiting for you.”

Molly pushed the girl to one side.  “Stop that this minute Julie, he’s a child.”

“He is now,” Julie agreed.  “But little boys, grow into big boys and I like big boys.”

She then winked at Little Joe and moved on.

“Put your eyes back in your head boy and forget any ideas you may have about coming back here any day soon,” Molly warned.  “You set foot in this place again before you’re grown and I’ll have your hide.  Are you listening to me?”

“Yes Ma’am,” Joe answered quickly.  But he was more worried about his hide in the here and now than in the years to come.

As Molly strode up the street with Little Joe at her side she saw Ben Cartwright and his other two sons coming towards her.  If Molly hadn’t had such a tight grip on Joe he would have turned and ran, he could already see the tight line settling across his father’s mouth.

“Mr Cartwright,” Molly began.  “I believe this young man belongs to you.”

Ben Cartwright looked down at his youngest son.  “Yes he does Miss Baker,” he said politely.  “What mischief has he been up to now?”

“I found him hiding in the saloon,” Molly replied.  “He seems to have become a bit of an art enthusiast.”

Molly didn’t need to elaborate upon her statement; the colour of Joe’s cheeks and his downcast eyes confirmed her suspicions.

“Adam,” Ben barked.  “Will you and Hoss please take your young brother home; I will deal with him later.  Meanwhile I will walk Miss Baker back to the saloon.”

With a brother on either side of him, Joe was escorted to his horse and taken from town.  As soon as he was out of sight, Molly and Ben dissolved into fits of laughter.

“Where was he hiding?” Ben asked.  “And how did he get in there in the first place?”

Molly’s smile lit up her face and Ben couldn’t help but see how attractive she was.  “Oh a few of his friends caused a distraction and Joe hid himself under one of the tables.”

“Did he get to see what he was looking for?”

“Afraid so,” Molly answered.  “If he hasn’t discovered girls before, he’ll certainly be showing an interest in them now.”

Ben shook his head vigorously.  “Miss Baker I’m afraid that boy discovered girls before he was out of diapers, I think I might just have to lock him in his room for the next five years or so.”

And that was how it began.  It was an innocent enough encounter that first day, but from then on Ben found himself searching out Molly’s company and before the year was out they became lovers.

Molly’s house was on the outskirts of town; just far enough away from prying eyes but close enough for her to walk to work each day.  Ben had visited the house many times over the years, but to his knowledge no one was aware of his visits and that is how they both liked it.

It was early afternoon by the time Ben was stood at Molly’s door, hat in hand and a smile on his face.

“Hi Ben,” Molly said warmly, as she stood to one side to let him enter.  “I wasn’t expecting you until later.”

Ben hesitated for a moment.  “Oh I’m sorry Molly, have I arrived too early?  It’s just the boys headed off straight after lunch and I never really thought about the time.  I can come back later if you’re busy.”

“Don’t be silly Ben; of course it’s not too early.  Come in, come in, I was just a little surprised that’s all.  Normally if you say a time I can set my clock by you.”

The relationship that Ben and Molly shared was a curious one.  Although they had an intimate relationship, it was more than that, they were also really good friends and Ben found himself sharing his thoughts and ambitions with Molly more than he had done with any other woman since Marie.

Even though they were both happy with the arrangement, Ben often found himself feeling guilty with regards to Molly and several times over the years he had declared that they ought to marry so they could bring their relationship out into the open.

Molly invariably laughed at Ben’s proposal.  “Ben Cartwright,” she would say.  “Why on earth would you want to spoil a good thing by getting married?”

“I think it would be the right thing to do,” Ben had insisted.

“Right for who?” Molly had asked.  “The nosey busy bodies in town?  I’m sorry Ben, I like you and I know you like me, but it isn’t love.  Added to that I have no wish to become stepmother to three grown men.”  Ben had raised one eyebrow and Molly had laughed.  “Well two grown sons and one almost full grown.  And no matter how cute that little one might be, I have no wish to be his mother.”

Ben had to acknowledge she was right, they both enjoyed their independence and, if he was truthful, he had no wish to marry again.

“I’m pleased you came early,” Molly enthused.  “I’ve missed you these past weeks.  We need to make up for lost time.”  With that Molly moved towards the bedroom and beckoned for Ben to follow her.

Ben laid his hat and gun belt on the table and followed Molly into the room and closed the door behind him.

Molly stood in front of the dressing table observing her reflection in the mirror.  Sweeping her hands down her bodice and resting them on her hips she complained.  “I declare my hips get wider by the day.” Sighing heavily she added, “Look how thick my waist is getting; I really don’t know what you see in me Ben?”

Ben crossed the room and standing behind Molly he loosened the back of her dress and slid it slowly from her shoulders.  “From where I’m standing, you’re all woman Molly.  Leave the skinny wenches for the boys; I’m a man and I like a woman to look like a woman with all her womanly charms.”  Then reaching forward he cupped her breasts and whispered in her ear.  “And plenty of them.”

“You’re a handsome man Ben Cartwright.  You know you could have your pick of any of the unmarried women in these parts.”

Turning Molly round to face him, Ben lifted her chin so that he could look in her eyes.  “What’s brought this on Molly?  Why would I want anyone else when I have such a beautiful woman in my arms right now?”

“Oh take no notice of me Ben; I guess I’m just feeling my age.”

Ben ran his hands down her body and smiled.  “You leave the feeling to me Molly.  Believe me I’ve no complaints.”

A low chuckle emanated from Molly’s throat and she threw her arms round Ben’s neck and kissed him passionately.

“You are so good for me Ben Cartwright.”

“Just let me get out of these clothes Molly and I’ll show you just how good I can be.” Ben promised.

All women, plain or beautiful, tend to have insecurities.  They worry about the size of their feet, their noses, their breasts and getting old.  Men generally have no idea how to deal with this, but Ben was different, he had been married three times, to three very different women and he understood the fairer sex more than most.  Consequently he went out of his way to assure Molly that her extra curves made her that much sexier and he wouldn’t have wanted her any other way.

Lying naked on the bed, Ben rested on one elbow and gazed lovingly over at the woman still undressing.  There was no need to hurry, their lovemaking was all the better for starting slow and building to a mutually satisfying climax.  That’s not to say it was boring, Ben was still an energetic lover, it was just it took him a little longer to get going than it did in his younger days.  But Ben thought of that as a good thing; he may not stand to attention the minute his pants were off, but once he was ready for action he could keep that momentum going for a lot longer than he did when he was a young man.  Maturity had its advantages.

Molly walked over to the bed and leaning forward she kissed Ben gently on the lips, but before they really got started she whispered.  “I was a really bad girl today Ben.  I borrowed Kitty’s dress….the red one…without telling her.”

Ben sucked in his breath.  “The really short one?” he asked hopefully.

“Yes,” Molly smiled.  “Would you like me to try it on?”

“Oh would I,” Ben grinned back, this was going to be some afternoon.

Molly disappeared from the room for a few minutes and reappeared wearing the most erotic dress Ben had ever seen.  The dress was deep red, with a heavy lace neckline that was cut so low it barely covered Molly’s ample breasts.  With a hemline that came to just below the thigh it could never have been worn in public, but then again it was never meant to be.  No decent woman would ever wear such a thing, but as Ben gazed with unabashed passion at the woman in front of him, he reasoned, when it came to the bedroom, he didn’t want a good woman; he wanted a bad one, a bad one through and through.

With a girlish giggle, Molly danced round the room, allowing the dress to swirl out and reveal tiny matching red lace panties, the like of which Ben had never seen before.  Seeing the surprised expression on his face Molly lifted the hem of the dress and allowed him a closer look.

“They come all the way from Paris,” she informed him.  “What do you think?”

“Come closer and I’ll show you what I think,” Ben whispered his voice even lower than normal, belying the passion he was feeling.

“Maybe I will and maybe I won’t,” Molly teased as she backed away from him.

Ben was quickly on his feet and with much laughter he chased her from the room, but was quick to catch her as they circled the settee.  Wrapping his arm around Molly’s waist he lifted her easily from the ground and carried her over to the table and laid her across it face down.

“Now let’s have a look at these wonderful frilly things from Paris,” he declared, lifting her dress from behind and revealing her scanty undergarments.

As Ben ran his hands over the silky material his manhood rose to attention; the sight of Molly in such a helpless position was too much for a man to resist.  Spreading her legs wide apart, he pushed her panties to one side and allowed his fingers to explore her most intimate parts.  Molly’s juices were flowing and told Ben in no uncertain terms that she was ready for the taking and he didn’t waste time asking for permission.  Removing his fingers, Ben replaced them with his throbbing cock and proceeded to give the woman below him the ride of her life.

Molly raised herself up on her elbows and groaned loudly with every thrust of Ben’s hips.  “Oh lord,” she gasped as her climax reached its peak.  “Ben Cartwright, you’re still the bull of the woods and no mistake.”  But Ben growled more like a lion than a bull when he finally shot his load and he reached forward and allowed his hands to grab hold of Molly’s breasts as he leaned over her back and nuzzled her neck.

They stayed in that position until Ben’s limp penis slipped from inside Molly with a plopping sound that broke the moment and brought them back to reality.

Ben stood back and gallantly helped Molly to straighten her clothing and stand up.  As he stood there naked and she pushed her breasts back into her dress, they may have felt foolish if they hadn’t been so comfortable with each other.  But as it was they smiled contentedly at each other and Molly asked,

“Is it too early for a brandy Ben?”

“Not at all Molly, I could sure use one,” then with a saucy wink he added.  “I’ll have mine in bed if that’s all right with you.”

“Fine with me Ben,” Molly replied, there was certainly life in the old dog yet.  “You just make yourself comfortable and I’ll be right with you.”

***

The second Cartwright son was also expending a lot of energy that Saturday afternoon, but of quite a different nature.  Hoss, Bessie Sue and her father were erecting the Hightower’s new barn.

Hoss was stood at the top of the ladder; hammer in one hand, plank of wood in the other and several nails between his teeth.  Mr Hightower worked diligently beside him, while Bessie Sue acted as gofer, fetching and carrying all the raw material.

The large barn was almost finished when everything came to a halt.

“Bessie Sue, where are you girl?” Mr Hightower shouted.  “I’ve ran out of a nails and I could do with another plank of wood.”

There was no reply.

“BESSIE SUE,” Mr Hightower shouted even louder.  Then turning to Hoss he declared.  “Women!   Never there when you want em.  Where has that girl got to?”

Before Hoss could formulate a reply, Bessie Sue could be seen walking across the yard towards them.

“Quit yer hollering Pa, I ain’t deaf.”

“Well if you ain’t deaf, why didn’t you answer me?”

“Cause I was looking for something,” Bessie Sue explained.

“Looking for what?” her father asked, becoming more exasperated by the minute.

“Looking for NAILS,” Bessie Sue replied just as loudly as her Pa.  “We’ve ran out.”

The heat of the day and the ache in his back was too much for Barney Hightower.  With an angry display of temper he threw his hammer to the ground in disgust.

“Now whose fault is that?  I wanted this job finished today.”

Bessie Sue was unfazed.  With large hands on her ample hips she declared, “You went for the supplies yesterday Pa.  The nails were on the list, so if you forgot them, I guess it’s your fault.”

Hoss’ face screwed up in anticipation of Mr Hightower’s reaction to his daughter’s words.  Barney Hightower’s temper frightened the living daylights out of Hoss and he couldn’t believe Bessie Sue would speak to him the way she did.  But to Hoss’ amazement the older man’s lips began to twitch and looking sheepishly at his daughter he admitted,

“Guess your right; I did go for the supplies.  Plumb forgot all about the nails.”

“That’s because you probably went to the saloon first,” Bessie Sue admonished.  “Now if you want this barn finished before the end of the weekend, I suggest you hightail into town and get those nails before the light fades and we get nothing else done.”

In what appeared a complete role reversal, Mr Hightower raised his hand to his hat in mock salute and answered “Yes Ma’am”, and without further ado he saddled his horse and left for town.

Taking a handkerchief from his pocket Hoss wiped his sweating brow and looked around for a comfortable place to rest while he waited for Mr Hightower to return, which was likely to be several hours.

“And what do you think you’re doing?” Bessie Sue asked.

“Me…oh well since I can’t get on, I thought I would just have me a little nap.”

“Think again big man, I’ve plenty for you to do.  You can start putting the bedding down for the horses in the barn for starters.  It may not be quite finished but I see no reason why the horses can’t go in there tonight.”

“Yes Ma’am,” Hoss found himself saying in much the same way Barney Hightower had done just minutes before him.  “But I sure could use a nice cool drink while I do it.”

“I’ll do better than that,” Bessie Sue promised.  “Beef sandwiches and cool lemonade coming right up.”

As Bessie Sue walked back to the house, Hoss stripped off his sweat soaked shirt and threw it in the corner of the barn.  Then with pitchfork in hand he began the task of spreading hay for the animals and filling their feed bags with oats.  He whistled as he worked and was unaware when Bessie Sue returned.  As he backed out of the barn he bumped into her, almost knocking the tray she was carrying from her hands.

“You big galloot!” Bessie Sue exclaimed as the lemonade from the jug spilled over the sides and splashed onto her pants.

Hoss apologised profusely as he took the tray from her hands and set it on the ground.

“Don’t fuss,” Bessie Sue rebuked.  “Just go and wash up so we can eat.”

A chastened Hoss walked over to the water pump and bending forward he took pleasure in pumping cool water all over his head.  This was followed by a thorough dowsing of his torso and a hard scrub at the ingrained dirt on his hands.  Finally turning round he was surprised to see a smiling Bessie Sue watching him.

“What?” he asked.

“You need well ask,” Bessie Sue replied slowly.  “Hoss Cartwright have I ever told you, what a fine figure of a man you are.”

A faint blush spread over Hoss’ cheeks as he lowered his eyes and stammered.  “Aw now Bessie Sue, quit joshing.”

“Joshing! I ain’t joshing and you know it.  But before I show you how serious I am, just get over here and eat some of these sandwiches before I finish the lot.”

Hoss didn’t need telling a second time.  He was very fond of Bessie Sue and he just loved it when she got that look in her eyes; the one that devoured him from head to toe – but first and foremost a man needed substance if he was to face the task ahead.  Bessie Sue was a tigress when aroused, biting and scratching and generally going wild, and Hoss was going to need every one of his huge muscles if he was to keep her satisfied.

As Hoss sat down and picked up the first of his sandwiches, Bessie Sue licked her lips in anticipation; things had worked out perfectly.  Her father was likely to be gone for hours and if, true to form, he made his usual stop at the Bucket of Blood saloon, he would be gone even longer.

Bessie Sue was what many men would describe as a ‘raw-boned woman’.  She was tall; much taller than Little Joe and she stood eye to eye with Adam.  She had an ample bosom and hips to match.  Most men were reluctant to even approach Bessie Sue, let alone look at her in a romantic light, the fact was she terrified the life out of most of them.

But Hoss Cartwright was different.  Next to Hoss, Bessie Sue felt positively dainty and she loved it.  His huge hands spanned her waist as if she was a mere slip of a girl and he could lift her off her feet without any effort at all.  Bessie Sue had lost her virginity to Hoss the year before, although if she cared to admit it, Bessie Sue had been the one to jump his bones rather than the other way round.

As for Hoss Cartwright he had been a slow starter when it came to women, not becoming a man in every sense of the word, until his twentieth birthday.  Even then if it hadn’t been for his brother Adam plying him with drinks and paying Betty Mason to take him upstairs for a birthday treat, he doubted whether he would have taken the initiative himself.

From that day forward Hoss had been keen to taste the delights of what the women in the saloon had to offer and they had plenty, but he hadn’t known true abandonment until he got together with Bessie Sue.  The women in the saloon, on the whole, were quite slight of build and tiny in stature.  This made Hoss cautious in his love making; always afraid he might hurt them or cause them pain in any way.  But with Bessie Sue he could just let rip; she gave as good as she got and their love making often left him feeling battered and bruised rather than the other way round.

Hoss had just taken his final bite of sandwich when Bessie Sue came and stood behind him.  Using her hands to massage his shoulders and the back of his neck she soothed, “You know Hoss your back is all knotted up after working on that barn all day, why don’t you let me work some of the tenseness out and make you feel better.”

“Sure Bessie Sue,” Hoss sighed, leaning back against her and enjoying the firm pressure of her hands.  “Oh that’s so good, over to the right a little, yeh there, right there.   Hmm a bit harder; ooh that’s the spot.”

Bessie Sue smiled to herself as Hoss became more and more relaxed, his eyes closing in ecstasy; he should know her better than that by now, after all she just wasn’t a gentle sort of gal.  Putting her head against his and nuzzling into his neck she continued to manipulate his back as she whispered,

“You enjoying yourself big boy?”

Hoss’ eyes shot open, this didn’t feel right and the warning signs were there.  But he was too late to react in time before Bessie Sue raked her finger nails down his back drawing blood.  With a yelp of pain Hoss jumped to his feet and turned on the now laughing girl.

“Don’t tell me you don’t like that better,” Bessie Sue smirked as she also stood upright getting ready to make good her escape.

“Why you minx,” Hoss growled.  “I’m gonna make you sorry you did that.”

Bessie Sue’s body shuddered with expectation; this was the reaction she had been hoping for.  “Gonna have to catch me first,” she giggled, running out of the barn and across the yard as fast as she could go.

Hoss took off in hot pursuit and he was surprisingly quick for such a big man.  But Bessie Sue was much quicker and disappeared round the side of the house before Hoss could grab hold of her.

After ten minutes of chasing Hoss was beginning to get out of breath and he decided to change tactics.  As Bessie Sue disappeared from view for the second time, Hoss changed direction and crept to the far corner of the house and waited.  Sure enough two minutes later he heard the sound of running footsteps and before Bessie Sue had time to realise her chaser was no longer behind her, he stepped out in front and she ran headlong into his open arms.

Bessie Sue struggled and kicked as best she could, but it was to no avail, Hoss had tight hold and he wasn’t letting go.  Picking her up like a sack of grain, he threw her bodily over his shoulder and started back for the barn.  With one hand he restricted the flaying legs and with the other he landed a few heavy swats on her helpless buttocks.

Once inside the barn Hoss threw Bessie Sue down onto the hay and straddled her torso before she could struggle to her feet.

Bessie Sue fought like a tiger and, even under the weight of Hoss’ massive bulk, she still managed to land a few hefty punches to his body.  Hoss grabbed hold of both her arms with one hand and he easily held them behind her head so she could do no further damage.

“You are in sore need of a lesson in manners young lady,” he stated with just a hint of a smile on his face.  “And I’m just the man to give it to you.”

“If you think you’re big enough?” Bessie Sue challenged.

“Oh I’m big enough,” Hoss promised.  “As you’ll soon find out.”

With his free hand Hoss stretched behind him and, with a deftness borne of practice, he loosened the belt and buttons on her pants and pulled her shirt above her waist.  Still keeping tight hold of her arms, he got to his feet and pulled her into a standing position next to him.  Hoss spread his legs wide to avoid her now kicking feet and with his free hand he pulled her pants and drawers to her knees, which not only exposed her lower limbs but prevented her legs from moving as well.

Bessie Sue was now helpless to retaliate and taking full advantage of the situation Hoss raised his left foot and placed it on an upturned stool, before pulling Bessie Sue across his knee.  Loosening her hands for just a moment he brought them round so he could hold them tightly behind her back.

Hoss found the whole situation very erotic as he gazed down on the helpless girl lying across him.  Her naked buttocks were exposed just asking to be spanked and he wasn’t one to disappoint.  Raising his right hand he brought it down swiftly onto her tender flesh making Bessie Sue cry out in both pleasure and pain.

“Are you gonna be a good girl from now on?” Hoss asked in a mock paternal fashion as he brought his hand down once more and watched in fascination as the pale flesh turned pink.

“Just you let me up big boy and I’ll show you how good I can be,” Bessie Sue teased her voice becoming husky with desire.

Bessie Sue felt the tell tale sign of Hoss’ manhood pressing against her thigh in anticipation of her words and she knew it wouldn’t be long before they really got down to business.

Hoss sucked in his breath and made a conscious effort to try and slow his body’s reaction down; it would spoil the day if he came too quickly.  With a tender touch he allowed his right hand to rest on Bessie Sue’s warm bottom as he massaged and kneaded the soft orbs with fascination; she really had the most perfect rear.

Before allowing Bessie Sue to get up from his knee, Hoss couldn’t resist letting his long fingers explore her hidden treasure.  Parting her legs ever so slightly he pushed his middle digit down between her thighs and inserted it into her moist and willing opening, making the girl below him squirm and sigh as she widened her legs further to allow him better access.  Hoss could tell she was more than ready and he decided not to prolong the fun any longer.

Pulling Bessie Sue to her feet, Hoss stood up and gazed down at the girl in front of him.  She looked rather cute with her hair all ruffled and her pants down round her ankles.

“Pull my boots off Hoss,” Bessie Sue instructed.  “I can’t get my pants off otherwise.”

Happy to oblige Hoss bent down and, with Bessie Sue resting on his shoulders, he pulled each of her boots from her feet and threw them into the corner.  Then, just so she didn’t change her mind, Hoss helped her off with her pants and drawers as well.

Without any prompting Bessie Sue proceeded to strip off the rest of her clothes until she stood naked in all her glory before Hoss.  With a low whistle Hoss showed his appreciation; she looked like a golden goddess before him.  Her limbs were lithe and supple; every inch of her body taught and toned as a result of the hard work she performed each day.

“Well don’t just stand there, we ain’t got all day,” Bessie Sue bemoaned.  “Get your kit off and let’s see what you’ve got on offer.”

“Yes Ma’am, whatever you say,” Hoss replied, eager to please.

Hoss’ deftness of before almost deserted him in his hurry to divest himself of his clothes and Bessie Sue almost laughed as she watched him struggle with the small buttons on his shirt.  In the end he gave up and yanked it open in one movement, sending the buttons flying in all directions.  How he was going to explain that to Hop Sing he didn’t know, but right at this moment he didn’t really care, he had things on his mind as well as other parts of his anatomy.

Bending forward to pull his pants from his legs, Hoss jumped in surprise as he felt a stinging lash to his rear.  Rubbing the sore spot, he turned to find a triumphant Bessie Sue with riding whip in her hand.

“Now let’s see who’s boss?” she gloated.  “Bend over and take your punishment like a man.”

Hoss yelled out a protest and rushed forward to take the offending instrument from her, but Bessie Sue was too quick for him and stepping to the side she once more brought the whip down on Hoss’ posterior.

“Oh you’ve got me angry now gal,” Hoss grunted.  “I’m gonna make you real sorry you did that.”

“I hope so,” Bessie Sue chuckled.  “I wouldn’t want to have wasted my time.”

As she raised her hand for a third time, Hoss charged forward and grabbed her round the waist, knocking them both off balance so they landed in a heap on the freshly spread hay.

The wrestling match that took place over the next few minutes was similar to ones Hoss had had with his brother Adam in years gone by, but this one was far more interesting.  Instead of a handful of his brother’s shirt, he grabbed a firm naked breast, and unlike his brother’s legs, he had no wish to loosen the ones that were wrapped round his middle in a vice like grip.

When Hoss finally pinned Bessie Sue to the ground their bodies were soaked in sweat and they were breathless with exertion.  Like animals performing a mating ritual, no words were needed as they allowed their basic instincts to dictate their every action.  Hoss’ manhood was so hard it was almost painful and with a will all of its own, it pushed between Bessie Sue’s legs until her opening yielded and allowed him to enter.

Riding Bessie Sue for Hoss was like riding the wildest stallion in the herd; she bucked and bellowed and thrashed below him in complete abandonment and when her climax was near she raked her finger nails down the length of his back sending Hoss’ own hormones into overdrive so that he reached a shuddering climax all of his own.

When it was finally over Hoss only took a moment to catch his breath before announcing, “Bessie Sue that sure has fired up my appetite, how about another plate of beef sandwiches?”

***

Little Joe was not having anywhere near the success as the rest of his family.  The afternoon had been a fruitless one and, although he had ridden for miles and miles, the herd of wild stallion he had been searching for had eluded him completely.

It was a long ride back to the ranch and the meagre provisions Joe carried in his saddlebag were long since eaten.  He was tired, hungry and in a bad mood; not a good combination.  He wasn’t ready to return home just yet and decided to head for the nearest line shack to have a coffee and a bite to eat in the hope of improving his temperament before rejoining his family.  The last thing Joe needed right now, was for Adam to start needling him about where he had been all day.  Joe knew from past experience he wouldn’t be able to stop himself from retaliating to Adam’s jibes and if a fight broke out and his father got involved, Joe’s indiscretion would no doubt come to light.

The line shack was only half a mile away and it wasn’t long before Joe was tying his horse to the post and making his way into the building to relax.  His heart almost stopped when he pushed open the door and was faced with a wide eyed girl holding a gun to his face.

“Julie?” Joe said in surprise.  “What are you doing here?”

“Oh Little Joe,” Julie sighed with relief, lowering the gun to her side.  “I didn’t know who it was; you gave me the fright of my life.”

“You gave me quite a fright as well,” Joe said with conviction, letting the breath he was holding escape from his lungs.  “It’s not every day someone points a gun at my head.”

“I’m sorry Joe,” Julie apologised.  “It’s just I wasn’t expecting anyone just yet.”

“Do I take it from that comment you are expecting someone?” Joe queried.

“Well yes,” Julie nodded.  “I’m meeting my boyfriend here.”

“Your boyfriend? I didn’t know you had a boyfriend.”

“He’s been gone a long time,” Julie volunteered.  “About five years to be precise, but he’s back now and we’re going away together.”

Joe was finding this all a bit hard to take in.  “But why are you meeting him here?  It doesn’t make sense.”

“It’s complicated Joe, you wouldn’t understand.  Look why don’t you be a good boy and head off home and just forget you ever saw me.”

Joe bristled a bit at the ‘boy’ reference; he really wanted Julie to see him as a grown man.  “I came here for a coffee and something to eat,” he stalled.  “I’ll have that first then think about it.”

“Okay,” Julie conceded reluctantly.  “But I’m telling you Little Joe, this ain’t something you want to get involved in, so have your coffee and go.”

“Like I said Julie, I’ll think about it.  Now how about you rustle me up something to eat.”  Then with a twinkle in his eye he added, “You can cook, can’t you?”

Julie glared at him at first, “I can cook fine Little Joe.”  Then with a twinkle in her own eye she added tongue in cheek.  “I’m a woman with more than one talent, just ask your brothers.”

***

Meanwhile back in Virginia City, just a couple of hours before Joe’s arrival at the line shack, there had been an incident that left the town’s folk reeling.

Virginia City’s most popular bank was open for business on a Saturday morning, but Mr Morrison, the bank manager, who was a stickler for keeping to a schedule, closed the doors promptly at midday.  As soon as the last of the money was deposited securely in the safe he hurried home to his wife Marjorie for a quick lunch and then headed out to the river for a spot of fishing.  Morrison had followed this routine for as long as he could remember and almost everyone in town was aware, when it got to mid-afternoon, the middle aged gent could be found sitting on the riverbank; fishing line in one hand, and his latest novel in the other.

This very routine was Morrison’s undoing.  On that fateful Saturday afternoon he was easy picking for the four ruthless men who rode up unnoticed and took him captive.  Mr Morrison by nature was a timid man and it took very little persuasion for him to agree to return to Virginia City and open up the bank.  The men were cautious and, except for the one that accompanied Mr Morrison, they all rode in separately and left their horses at the livery stable before meeting at the rear entrance to the bank. The people in town were too busy with their own business to notice the men as they entered by the back door and, with the shutters down at the windows, their presence inside the bank went unnoticed.

It was a small boy playing hide and seek that raised the alarm.  When it was his turn to hide he ran into the back street and climbed onto the roof of the building opposite the bank.  At first he didn’t notice anything amiss, but when he saw movement through the window he became curious and focused his attention on the men inside.  As soon as he saw the gun in one of the men’s hands he knew something wasn’t right and without further ado he jumped down from his hiding place and shouted for the sheriff at the top of his voice as he ran towards the jailhouse.

The men inside the building were panicked at being found out and, grabbing as much cash as they could carry, they headed towards the back door.  But the good citizens of Virginia City were curious to know what was going on and people gathered at the rear entrance, thereby cutting off the robbers escape.  Forced to take evasive action, the leader of the gang pushed the frightened bank manager ahead of him and marched towards the main door, his gun held to the poor man’s head.

The chaos that followed was unbelievable.  Sheriff Coffee and his deputy, Clem, were running towards the bank, guns at the ready, not knowing what to expect.  Adam Cartwright was exiting the saloon doors, unaware of the excitement taking place just yards from where he was standing.   Barney Hightower was swaggering towards the mercantile, his belly full of beer and his head full of nothing in particular; what was it he had come to town for anyway??

On seeing the Sheriff approaching, the youngest of the bank robbers had started firing indiscriminately and this had incited the others to lose control.  Mike Dawson, who worked at the local blacksmiths, just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and he was the first one shot and died instantly.  It was hard to tell whose gun had fired the fatal bullet, but it didn’t really matter, the end result was just the same.

Barney Hightower was the next innocent victim.  As he passed by he was caught up in the crossfire and buckled to the ground as a bullet lodged in his thigh.

In what seemed but a moment in time, one man was left for dead and another one injured.

Sheriff Coffee and Clem were outnumbered and were unable to get a clear shot as the robbers still held Mr Morrison in front of them as a shield.  Adam Cartwright on the other hand had quickly ascertained what was going on and he positioned himself against the wall, hidden from sight, but with his gun ready at hand.

With their human barricade in front of them, the four men took stock of their situation and decided to head towards the livery stable, which was only a short distance away.  Once inside they mounted their horses and after pushing Morrison to the ground they galloped out of the stable with guns blazing.  A moving target is not an easy one and it was purely by chance that Adam’s shot found its mark.  Three of the men escaped unharmed, but the fourth one fell from his horse with a bullet wound to his arm.  He wouldn’t be going anywhere but jail that afternoon.

The doctor and the undertaker were the first men out onto the street; there was business for both that day.

Sheriff Coffee set about organising a posse; they were losing precious time as the men made their escape.

“You coming Adam?” Clem asked, anxious to get moving.

Adam was torn; he wanted to go with the posse, but he also saw it as his duty to get word to Bessie Sue about her father.

“I’m going to ride out to the Hightower place first Clem.  I’ll catch up with you in a little while.”

Sheriff Coffee nodded his head in agreement, someone had to break the news to Bessie Sue and it was best if it was a friend; that injury to Barney’s leg looked pretty serious to him.

“Did you recognise any of those men Adam?” the Sheriff asked.

“I could be wrong Roy,” Adam stated.  “Because I haven’t seen him for more than five years and even then I didn’t know him that well, but I’m pretty sure the one holding the gun to Morrison’s head was Randy Simpson.”

Sheriff Coffee nodded in agreement.  “That’s what I was thinking as well.  And if I’m not mistaken the fella the doc is fixing up in the jail is his younger brother Martin.”

Just a couple of miles away, Ben Cartwright was saying his goodbyes to Molly.  It had been a very pleasant afternoon and he was loathe to leave, but time was getting on and he wanted to be home before the boys, so no questions would be asked.

As he was about to mount his horse he saw three riders off in the distance.  They were riding at a fast pace and seemed to be heading towards Ponderosa land.  Ben pondered momentarily who they could be, but he wasn’t particularly perturbed, after all riders were a frequent sight round these parts and many of them used the Ponderosa as a shortcut to other places.

***

Randy Simpson had never felt so angry; how had it all gone wrong?  He cursed the pesky kid who couldn’t mind his own business and he cursed Adam Cartwright for shooting his brother.

It was just his luck to get caught on his first job; why couldn’t the fates have dealt him a better hand for once.  Simpson had only been out of jail for two months and already it looked as if he would be back inside in the not too distant future.

On leaving prison Simpson had made a pretence of going straight, but getting his hands dirty and working for a living was not to his liking and it hadn’t taken long before his thoughts turned to easier ways of making money.  People round these parts had long memories and, even if they had been willing to overlook the fact that Randy Simpson was less than honest, his notorious temper was something few people would forget in a hurry. Simpson’s latest stint in jail had been for robbery, but if truth be known, if it hadn’t been for the rock hard head of the last person to face his temper, it would have been a hangman’s noose and not jail he faced.

“Damn, Damn, Damn,” Randy said over and over again.  What was he going to do now?  If he had only himself to think about, he would cut his losses, collect Julie from the line shack, and make a run for it.  But his stupid kid brother had been caught and he couldn’t just run off and leave him.  Martin had always been a liability, never doing what he was told, always going off half cocked.  Even so, Martin at 24 years old was his little brother and, in his warped sense of right and wrong, one thing Randy was sure of, family stuck together.  But why he had ever agreed to Martin accompanying him on this job in the first place, he would never know.  “Damn, Damn, Damn.”

As Randy and his two accomplices approached the line shack they were immediately on high alert.  Where did the paint pony come from?  With guns drawn they dismounted their horses and covered the remaining ground on foot.  Indicating for the other two to flank out at each side, Randy crept up the steps and with a rush of bravado he kicked in the door and ran inside.

Poor Joe had no time to react to the sudden interruption; the coffee cup in his hand crashed to the floor as Simpson sprinted the distance between them and pushed Joe’s head flat against the table with one hand and held a gun to his temple with the other.  Joe groaned loudly, this wasn’t his day, twice in one afternoon someone had pointed a gun at his head.

“What you doing here mister?” Randy growled, not relinquishing his hold on Joe to make it any easier for him to reply.

“Hey Randy, what are you playing at? Joe wasn’t doing any harm; he was just having a bite to eat before going home.  Let him up, won’t ya?”  Julie mistakenly assumed her boyfriend was jealous of Joe and was anxious to reassure him there was nothing going on.

“I want to know who he is and what he’s doing here first,” Randy insisted.

“You probably don’t recall him, but it’s Little Joe Cartwright.  This is his Pa’s line shack remember.”

By this time the other two men had entered the shack and they didn’t seem too pleased at the information that Julie had just imparted to them.

Randy let go of Joe’s head and taking hold of his arm he pulled him to his feet.  “Joe Cartwright,” he mused.  Then looking directly at Joe he asked, “You related to Adam?”

“Yes, he’s my brother.”

Whack!  The backhanded smack on Joe’s mouth was so hard he was thrown across the room and into the wall.

“Randy,” Julie screamed.  “What’s got into you?”

“His brother just shot Martin,” Simpson spat.  “I ought to kill the little bastard.”

Blood trickled from the side of Joe’s mouth as he looked up in dismay.  “What was this guy talking about?  Who was Martin and why did he think Adam had shot him?”

“M-Martin’s shot?” Julie whispered, unable to believe what she had just heard.  “I-I-Is he dead?”

“No he’s not dead; he was shot in the arm.  But it meant he didn’t get away and now the sheriff has him.  And all because of his brother.”

“Oh no,” Julie moaned.  “What went wrong?  You did get the money didn’t you?”

“Yes we got the money,” Randy smiled for the first time; amused at the fact that when it came down to it, Julie was more concerned about the money than anything else.  “But I’m not leaving without Martin.”

“And how do you propose to do that?” Julie snapped.  “Sheriff Coffee is hardly going to open the doors and let him out.”

“I’ll think of something,” Randy retorted, knowing he really didn’t have an answer.

But then a cruel smile formed on the man’s lips and he began to chuckle.  “Now maybe the kid being here is a stroke of luck after all.”

“What do you mean?” Julie asked hesitantly; looking from Randy to Joe.

“Well let’s just say that if Sheriff Coffee isn’t obliging, old man Cartwright is gonna be one son less by the end of tomorrow.”

***

Ben Cartwright was pleased to be the first one back at the ranch.  He didn’t deliberately deceive the boys and, if asked, he would tell them the truth; well maybe not the whole truth, but he wouldn’t lie to them.

Glad of a moment’s solitude Ben poured himself a brandy and reflected on what had been a very pleasant afternoon.  Life was good; the ranch was prospering, his boys were grown and he had a woman in his life that made him feel like a stud.  Ben wasn’t a suspicious man, but a slight apprehension crossed over him and he touched the wooden table in front of him….. just in case; it didn’t pay to tempt the fates.

As Ben was draining the last drop of his brandy, Adam was riding fast towards the Hightower ranch.  He had only stayed in town long enough to get a progress report on Barney, and it didn’t look good.  The man had lost a lot of blood and it would be touch and go over the next forty-eight hours.  Adam just hoped his condition didn’t change for the worse before he was able to tell Bessie Sue what had happened and give her the chance to join her father.

Hoss never heard his brother’s approach and it was only when Adam spoke that he became aware of his presence.

“Well what put the smile on your face Hoss?” Adam teased from the barn door.  “You look like the cat that got the cream.”

Hoss jumped in surprise and a faint blush covered his cheeks.  “D-Don’t know what you’re talking about Adam.  I’m just bedding down the horses that’s all.”

“Judging from the state of your back that’s not all you’ve been bedding,” Adam observed with a raise of his eyebrow.  “If I didn’t know better I would say you had been in a fight with a wildcat………..then again, maybe you have.”

Hoss tried to cover up, but his shirt was still on the floor where he had left it and he felt exposed under his brother’s glare.

Adam only smiled at Hoss’ obvious discomfort before finally adding.  “I’d put your shirt on if I were you, wouldn’t want Pa jumping to any conclusions.”

Hoss’ face turned scarlet; he wasn’t good with words and he made no attempt to try and deny Adam’s assumptions.  If truth be known he was rather glad it was Adam and not Mr Hightower that had walked into the barn.  Barney Hightower was a big man and if he thought for one moment that Hoss was playing fast and loose with his daughter, there was no telling what he might do.

With the mention of Ben, Adam was reminded of the reason for his visit and his expression sobered immediately.  “Where’s Bessie Sue?” he asked looking round.

Glad to change the subject Hoss volunteered, “She’s at the house making some grub.  Her Pa’s in town buying nails.”

“It’s Barney I’ve come to see her about,” Adam informed him with a heavy sigh.

“What about Pa?” a voice called from behind.  “What’s he done now?  Landsakes as if we don’t have enough to worry about.  I hope he’s not sleeping it off in Sheriff Coffee’s jail, because if he is, I’ve a good mind to leave him there.”

“No no nothing like that,” Adam replied giving her reassurance if only for a moment. “I’m afraid there’s been a shooting Bessie Sue.  Four men tried to rob the bank and your Pa was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.  He was shot in the leg.”

“Is he…..”

“No he’s alive, but it’s bad.  I think you should get to town as quickly as you can.”

Bessie Sue’s face crumpled, while she and Hoss had been enjoying a romp in the hay, her father was shot and could be dying.  She would never forgive herself if he died.

***

Randy Simpson and his two cronies, Mike and Jimmy, sat round the table in the line shack gustily tucking into a meal prepared with provisions left by the Cartwrights.

Looking over to where he had left Joe lying on the hard floor, bound hand and foot, Randy smiled sardonically.

“Give my thanks to your Pa, kid; he certainly knows how to feed a man.”

The gag in his mouth prevented Joe from responding with a sardonic retort of his own, but that didn’t stop his eyes giving out a message loud and clear to Simpson, leaving him in no doubt as to what Joe was thinking.

“Come on you two, finish up,” Simpson demanded, ignoring Joe’s glare.  “It’s almost nightfall and I want this message delivered to old man Cartwright tonight.”

“Let me get this straight,” Mike reaffirmed.  “You want me to take the kid’s horse, with the note in the saddlebag and leave it at the ranch?”

“That’s right.”

“What if they are already out looking for him?”

“There wouldn’t be much point in the dark.  Anyway whatever they decide they’ll leave it till morning.  Don’t forget they don’t know anything’s wrong at this point in time.”

“Oh yeah, that’s right,” Mike replied, obviously relieved.  “But there’s still the sheriff.”

“Look Mike,” Simpson explained as if speaking to a child.  “The sheriff won’t be looking round these parts; he’s bound to think we would ride as far away as possible.”

“I suppose so,” Mike said flatly, unconvinced by Simpson’s argument.  “What you gonna be doing while we’re gone?”

Simpson looked over at Julie and winked his eye.  “Oh Julie and I have business to catch up on.”

Mike looked at Julie with longing; licking his lips as he drawled.  “Now that’s one job I wouldn’t mind trading with you Randy, nope I wouldn’t mind doing that bit of business for you at all.”

“Me neither,” Jimmy chirped in, giving Julie a gap toothed smile that made her stomach lurch; boy was she glad she didn’t have to service men like him anymore.

Simpson chuckled but shook his head.  “I can manage fine on my own boys; I don’t need any help in that department.  So just be on your way.”

The two men hurried out into the night and Joe was left alone with Simpson and Julie.  He was beginning to feel decidedly uncomfortable at the way the conversation had turned; surely they didn’t intend to carry on as if he wasn’t there.

Julie started to clear the supper dishes when Simpson came up behind her and turned her round to face him.  Lifting her chin he kissed her long and hard on the mouth, snaking his tongue between her teeth and biting down on her lips.  His hands roamed freely over her body and it was long moments before they broke apart.

“I thought they would never go,” Simpson finally uttered.  “Didn’t think I could wait much longer.”

“What about him?” Julie asked, looking over to where Joe lay.

Simpson had forgotten all about Joe.  “What about him?” he repeated.

Julie shrugged her shoulders.  “We can’t just leave him lying there watching.”

“Why not?  He’s not going anywhere.”

“It just doesn’t seem right,” Julie said irritably.  She didn’t know why she felt this way about Joe being there, she just did.

Simpson looked confused.  “You’re not going all prudish on me, are you Julie?”

“It’s not that,” Julie whispered.  “It’s well……he’s just, you know, he’s such an innocent.”

On hearing the whispered words, Simpson laughed out loud, he couldn’t believe Julie would care about such things.  “Well it will be an education for him won’t it?” And with that he reached forward and began to unloosen the front of her dress.

“Please Randy,” Julie pleaded.

With a sigh, Simpson went over and turned down the oil lamp, leaving them with only the flames from the fire to light the room.  “There, that better?”

“Much better.”

Joe shifted uncomfortably on the floor, even in the dim light he could still see more than he wanted to.  He tried not to watch, he really did, but it was a small room and with a voyeur’s fascination for peeping he found he couldn’t take his eyes off the two people less than ten feet away from him.

Simpson had removed Julie’s dress and underclothes in a matter of seconds and for the first time in his young life, Joe looked on at a naked woman.  Julie was quite beautiful and as he watched Simpson’s hands paw at her breasts, Joe could feel a tightening in his pants that he didn’t want, but no way could avoid.

Randy’s hands kneaded Julie’s breasts roughly, squeezing the nipples into hard peaks, before he bent down and suckled on each teat in turn.  There was no finesse about his love making, but Julie wasn’t perturbed, she loved Randy and that’s all that mattered to her.

The next moment Julie sank to her knees and began to loosen Randy’s belt and unbutton his pants.   With practised hands she soon had them undone and pulled his pants and drawers to his knees.  Taking hold of his flaccid tool, she reached out her tongue and gently traced a line from the tip to the scrotum.

Joe watched in fascination as the man’s weapon began to come to life.  At first he couldn’t take his eyes off Julie’s naked body but now his whole attention was fixed on the man’s anatomy.  At seventeen years of age, Joe was just coming into manhood and, like every other man; he worried about the size of his penis and how he would measure up when compared to others.  This was quite a dilemma for most men, because usually they had nothing to which they could make a comparison, after all, they only saw other men naked when bathing or relieving themselves, never when aroused.

Joe had not wanted to be a part of the scene being played out in front of him, but now he held his breath as he watched with total concentration, hoping the couple would continue to forget he was there.

As Julie continued her administrations on Randy’s now engorged penis, Joe felt a moment of elation.  If that was what the man had to offer, and Julie certainly didn’t seem disappointed in it, then Joe had nothing to worry about, nothing to worry about at all.

Joe had often heard the men at the bunkhouse intimate what a woman could do with her mouth and now he was seeing at first hand just what it was they were on about.  Randy’s tool was pushed deep into the girl’s throat as she moved her head up and down rhythmically, while at the same time cupping and squeezing his balls.

Randy leaned back in ecstasy as his buttocks moved backwards and forwards in the same rhythmic dance as Julie’s head.  Then when he felt he was about to reach the point of no return he pulled himself away from her and urged her over to the bed.

Without any preamble he spread the girl’s legs wide and pushed himself into her in one fluid motion.  With the grunting sound of a pig he rutted away for less than a few seconds before yelling out his pleasure as he spilled his seed inside her.  Julie was left unsatisfied, but she didn’t care, just so long as her man was happy.

Joe’s mind tried to control his body, but at seventeen he was fighting a losing battle and just as Randy’s seed was entering the girl’s body, Joe’s seed was spilling into his pants, there was no way for him to prevent it and his breath came in short gasps as his body soaked in sweat.

The couple lay on the bed for several minutes before Randy gave Julie a shove and suggested.  “How about a coffee?”  When Julie made to move he added.  “Or better still have a look round, knowing Cartwright there’s probably some rotgut hidden in here somewhere for medicinal purposes.”

Julie stepped from the bed and was about to grab the blanket to cover her naked body, but decided against it.  While making love to Randy she had occasionally looked over to where Joe was lying and in the semi darkness she had seen the glint from the white’s of his eyes as he watched them.  Much as she had protested about his being there in the beginning; when it came to it, she had found the whole experience quite a turn on and the fluid between her legs had been more from knowing that Joe was watching than from anything Randy had done.

Walking over to the table, Julie lit the oil lamp and filled the shack with light once more.  Then with just the hint of a smile on her face she ambled over to where Joe was lying and, with a whore’s knowledge of men, she noted the tell tale signs that told her Joe had enjoyed the experience as much as she had.

Joe could do nothing to hide his discomfort and his cheeks turned pink as he tried to avert his eyes from her naked body.

“Can I get you anything Little Joe?” she asked mockingly.  “Wouldn’t want your Pa to think we were mistreating you.”

At the mention of his Pa, Joe’s cheeks flushed even redder.  Pa would want to know all the details of his capture, but this was one experience Joe knew he would keep secret no matter how much he was questioned.  There were just some things a parent didn’t need to know.

***

Suppertime came and went; the uneaten food dried up and still there was no sign of the boys.  Ben had been angry at first; they all knew what time they were expected home, but as the hours ticked by the anger turned to worry, a familiar feeling for any parent.

The sound of an approaching horse stopped Ben’s pacing of the floor and he rushed out into the night air just as Adam entered the yard.

Even in the dim light Adam could see the worry etched on Ben’s face and he made a half hearted attempt to smile in an effort to allay his father’s fears.

“Hi Pa,” he called as he dismounted and tied his horse to the hitching post.

“What’s happened Adam?” Ben responded immediately, not for one moment fooled by Adam’s countenance.

“Just let me get one of the men to stable my horse,” Adam stalled.  “Then I’ll be right in.  Why don’t you pour us both a brandy?”

Reluctantly Ben turned towards the house and went inside.  With a heavy sigh Adam walked over to the bunkhouse and, with just a quick knock on the door, entered without ceremony.  There were very few men around; mainly the very young or the very old.  It was Saturday night and most cowboys were in town spending their hard earned cash on whisky and women.

One young lad of about sixteen stood up from his bed and asked a little nervously.  “Is there anything I can do for you Mr Cartwright?”

“Thanks Matt,” Adam replied.  “I wouldn’t normally ask, but do you think you could stable my horse for me?”

“Sure Sir I’d be glad to,” Matt replied, relieved he wasn’t in trouble.  “I’ll do it right away.”

“Thanks,” Adam responded with genuine gratitude; he believed in a man looking after his own horse and normally he would not take advantage of his position.

As Adam entered the house his father walked towards him with a glass of brandy in each hand.  “Well?” Ben demanded, his patience running thin.  “Do I get to know what’s going on?”

“There was a bank robbery in town today…..”

“Was anyone hurt?” Ben interrupted not giving Adam a chance to finish.

“Afraid so,” Adam confirmed.  “Mike Dawson was killed and Barney Hightower was shot in the leg.  It looks bad Pa, the Doc’s not sure if he’ll pull through.”

“Does Bessie Sue know?”

“Yes, I rode out to the Hightower ranch before coming home.  Hoss rode into town with Bessie Sue; I don’t suppose he’ll make it home tonight.”

Ben nodded his head in understanding.   “What about the bank robbers?”

“I winged one of them, nothing serious; Roy has him locked up.  It was Martin Simpson Pa, Randy’s younger brother.”

Ben was incredulous.  “Randy Simpson! He’s only just come out of prison; surely he wouldn’t be that stupid?  He’ll be back in again before he knows it.”

“He’s more likely to face a hangman’s noose this time; that’s if Roy ever catches up with him.”

Just then Ben remembered the riders he had seen when he left Molly’s house.  “I think I may have seen the men earlier this evening riding towards the Ponderosa.  I was just leaving………”  Ben’s voice trailed off leaving his sentence unfinished.  Adam wondered for a second what his Pa was going to say, but he didn’t have long to ponder.

“But what happened to Little Joe?” Ben asked.

“Little Joe!  What about Joe?  Isn’t he home?”

All of Ben’s worries rose to the surface once more.  “Joe didn’t come home; he’s been gone since lunchtime.  You don’t suppose he could have run into Simpson and the others do you?”

“Naw, I doubt it,” Adam shook his head.  “You know what Joe’s like.  He’s probably off having fun with those friends of his and forgotten all about the time.”

Ben nodded, but neither man believed for one instant that that was what had really happened.  Joe was young, but he wasn’t a child, and if he had learned one lesson over the years it was to make it home when he was expected or he had better have a very good reason.

Adam tried to lighten the mood.  “How about supper Pa? I’m starving.”

Ben indicated his head towards the kitchen where Hop Sing was still banging dishes into the sink.  “I’ll leave it to you to negotiate with Hop Sing; I think he’s still rather upset over a wasted supper.”

Adam thought for a moment but in the end decided against a confrontation.  “Maybe I’ll just make a sandwich after he’s gone to bed.”

***

By the time Mike and Jimmy arrived back at the line shack it was in darkness.  Randy and Julie were curled up on the bed together fast asleep, while Joe lay awake on the hard floor, unable to get comfortable.

Mike looked at the sleeping couple and nudged Jimmy in the ribs.  “How come we get to ride round the countryside half the night and he gets all the pleasure?”

“Beats me,” Jimmy whispered back.  “But right now I’m too tired to even think about it, let alone do anything.”

The two men unrolled their bedrolls and placed them on the floor.  There wasn’t much room to lie out and Mike kicked at Joe’s legs.  “Hey kid move over, you’re taking up too much room.”

Joe had no choice but to shuffle further into the corner.  His whole body ached from being in the same position for hours on end and he shivered in the cold night air; the fire had long since died.  What would the morning bring?

***

Ben and Adam did not go to bed at all that night, they sat is their respective chairs in silence, listening for horses hooves that didn’t come.  Fatigue eventually overtook them and they drifted into an uneasy and uncomfortable sleep.

A loud rap on the door just before daybreak had them on their feet in an instant.  Adam rushed ahead of his father, but before opening the door he took the caution of picking up his gun from the credenza.

The Cartwrights’ were surprised to see their youngest ranch hand standing in the doorway.

“What is it Matt?” Adam asked testily, replacing his gun on the credenza.

“It’s Joe’s horse Mr Cartwright,” Matt replied.  “I found it in the yard this morning when I got up to do my chores.  It weren’t tied up or anything and I thought it was rather strange, knowing the way Joe is about that horse of his.”

A look of panic crossed Ben’s face and he pushed his way past Adam and the boy and hurried outside.  Sure enough it was Cochise, but there was nothing obvious to indicate what had happened to Joe.

“Maybe he was thrown Pa and he’s walking home.”

“Your brother’s a good horseman Adam; in fact you would think that boy had been born on a horse, I somehow don’t see him being thrown.”

“Everything seems to be in order,” Adam confirmed as he opened up Joe’s saddlebags and examined the contents.  “But then again what do we have here?”  Adam pulled out a scruffy piece of paper and handed it to Ben.

Ben’s hands were shaking slightly as he took the piece of paper and began to read the scrawling writing written across the page.

“We have your boy.  If you want to see him alive again, bring my brother Martin to Swallow Pass at twelve noon and we can make an exchange.  Failure to do so will sign your son’s death warrant.    Randy Simpson”

Ben folded the note and put it in his inside pocket.  Turning to Matt he said very quietly.  “Saddle our horses’ boy, we’re going into town.”

“Yes sir,” Matt replied, rushing off to do Ben’s bidding.

***

“What do you want me to do Ben?” Roy Coffee cried, throwing his arms in the air in exasperation.  “I can’t just let the prisoner go.  Have you forgotten a man was killed and another one badly hurt?  And to top it all they escaped with over $50,000!”

“My boy could die if we don’t do something.”

“Now Ben that ain’t fair; I’m only doing my duty.  I don’t want anything to happen to Little Joe any more than you do, but my responsibility, first and foremost, is to the people of this town.  That’s what I was elected for.”

“Roy I wasn’t suggesting we let the prisoner go, but I see no reason why we don’t use him to lure the rest of them out into the open.”

“And how do you propose to do that?” Roy snapped back.  “You know as well as I do that even if we show up at Swallow Pass with Simpson, they ain’t gonna let Little Joe go.  They’ll use him to make good their escape, you know it and I know it.”

Ben was fast losing patience and he was on the point of telling Roy just how he should be doing his job, when Adam placed a restraining hand on his shoulder and with a beseeching look in his eyes he indicated for his Pa to leave it to him.

“Now Roy, what Pa and I had in mind was to try and outsmart them.  Pa saw them ride out last night so we have a fair idea which direction they were headed in.  If you and Pa make your way to Swallow Pass for twelve noon with Martin Simpson, Hoss and I could ride out first and try and locate their hide out.  If they leave with Little Joe we could follow up behind and take them by surprise.”

“And if they don’t have Little Joe?”

“Then Hoss and I put ourselves between them and him.  They won’t get past us.  No reason why we won’t capture them all.”

“It’s a long shot Adam,” Roy said with scepticism.  “Clem and the posse arrived back this morning empty handed, who’s to say you and Hoss will be any different?”

“Hoss is the best tracker in these parts by far Roy and he knows that area better than any man alive,” Adam said with conviction, then added a little more quietly. “Besides Roy it’s the best chance we’re gonna get.”

Roy looked at the desperate faces of the two men in front of him and he didn’t have the heart to turn them down.  “Okay, okay we’ll give it a try, but I’m telling you this Ben, I’m the Sheriff and I’ll be calling the shots.  What I say goes….right?”

The two Cartwright men traded glances.  “I’ll go along with you Roy,” Ben conceded.  “But if they’ve harmed one hair on my boy’s head, they’ll pay for it.”

“It’s not the hair on his head you need worry about,” Adam muttered under his breath, thinking of what Susie had told him and just what Joe could be going through at the hands of Simpson’s girlfriend.

“What was that Adam?”

“Oh nothing Pa!” Adam coughed.  “I just said I’m sure you’ll have nothing to worry about.  Anyway I’d better go and find Hoss so we can get started.”

At the mention of Hoss, a wave of guilt washed over Ben.  “How’s Barney Hightower doing Roy?”

“Doc thinks he’ll pull through,” Roy said, a smile passing over his lips for the first time.  “Didn’t have too much trouble getting the bullet out and Bessie Sue says she’ll kill him if he ups and dies on her.”

All three men now laughed openly; Barney would be sure to get well if he knew what was good for him.

Adam headed for the door.  “Time to get going.”  Then looking back at the two worried faces he added.  “Wish me luck.”

***

It had been a long night for Little Joe.  Cramped in the corner of the line shack, his limbs bound hand and foot, with not even a blanket for warmth; Joe ached from head to toe, his head pounded and his stomach rumbled from lack of food.

Julie was the first person to stir and she moved carefully to untangle her limbs from those of the man sleeping next to her.  Dressed in nothing but her underclothes she crawled from the bed and. after a quick search in the half light, she found what she was looking for and pulled her dress over her head.

“Hey Jimmy,” Julie whispered, anxious not to disturb Randy.  “Wake up and get a fire started or there’ll be nothing but jerky for breakfast.”

Jimmy sat up and groaned audibly; he felt as if he had only been asleep for a couple of hours and was in no mood to start the day.  “What time is it anyway?” he moaned.

“Time we were all up and on our way,” a voice called out from the other end of the room.  Randy was already pulling on his pants and stepping from the bed.

“Just get the coffee brewing, there’s no time for breakfast,” Randy informed Julie.  “We need to head out to Swallow Pass and make sure the Cartwrights aren’t setting up an ambush.”

“They wouldn’t do that,” Mike interjected.  “Surely they wouldn’t risk hurting the boy.”

“We’re not taking the kid,” Randy stated.  “If we take him we stand no chance of escape.  We’ll just take something of his along so they know we’ve got him.”

“And you still expect them to turn over Martin?” Julie asked in puzzlement.  “Without the boy, what have you got to bargain with?”

Randy looked at Joe and smiled.  “His life of course.  We get Martin or he dies.  Once we are out of the territory I’ll turn him loose, but not before.  If they follow or try to take us in we shoot him.  Simple as that.”

Put like that it sounded simple enough, but somehow it didn’t make sense.  The Cartwrights would be expecting Little Joe and Julie didn’t see them giving up without a fight, but Randy seemed confident enough and she wasn’t going to argue with him.

Joe listened intently to the conversation taking place about him, feeling powerless to do anything about it.  With difficulty he pulled himself into a sitting position and watched helplessly as the men strapped on their gun belts and donned their jackets.

“What about him?” Julie asked, pointing over to the corner.

“What about him?” Randy shrugged.  “He ain’t going anywhere.”

“Well I think he ought to go somewhere before you leave,” Julie said sarcastically.  “He’s being tied up there an awful long time!”

Randy smirked.  “Suppose you’re right.  He must be desperate by now.”  Walking over to where Joe was seated he reached down and roughly pulled him to his feet.

“Now boy I’m gonna loosen these binds, but you better not give me any trouble.  Do ya hear?”

When Joe failed to answer, Randy shook him roughly.  “You listening to me boy?”

“I’m listening,” Joe said through gritted teeth.

Randy untied Joe’s hands and feet and pushed him towards the door.  “Okay outside.  You’ve got two minutes to do what you need to and then I’m tying you up again.”

Joe had been lying in the same position for that long his feet felt like lead and as he walked he rubbed his wrists hoping to get the circulation back into his hands.

“Oh and take your jacket off,” Randy instructed as they were stood at the side of the line shack and Joe did the necessary.  “I’m gonna need that to show your Pappy.”

“Do you think it could wait until I finish?” Joe responded sardonically.

Randy wasn’t amused.  “Just get a move on, I haven’t got all day.”

Joe’s mind was racing; there must be something he could do.  He just couldn’t go meekly and allow Randy to tie him up again, not while his family may be at risk.  What if his Pa or brothers put up a fight and one of them was hurt or even killed?  He had to do something!!!

With deliberate slowness Joe readjusted his clothing and removed his jacket.  “Come on, come on,” Randy hurried anxious to be on his way.

Joe stopped thinking and his natural instincts took over and he reacted in the only way he knew how, with his fists.  He launched himself at Randy Simpson, knocking the bigger man from his feet and wrestling him to the ground.  Simpson was taken completely by surprise and Joe was able to get in a few good punches, but he didn’t have the upper hand for long.

Randy had been known for his temper before he went to jail, but the years of incarceration had added a new dimension of brutality to his temperament.  His reaction to Joe’s attempt at escape went way beyond that of being normal.  He punched, kicked and bit Joe with such viciousness that it took all of Mike and Jimmy’s strength to drag him off him.

“Hey Randy ease up,” Mike screamed.  “We need the kid to bargain with; we can’t bargain with a dead body.”

Eventually the mist cleared and Randy’s breathing began to slow down.  “You asked for that boy,” the man justified, not bothering to look at the damage he had done.  “Now get back inside.”

It was a futile instruction, because Joe couldn’t have moved even if he wanted to.  Mike and Jimmy took it upon themselves to pull the injured boy to his feet and drag him back into the line shack.

“Tie him up again,” Randy snarled.  “Don’t want the little bastard trying anything while we’re gone.”

Jimmy strapped Joe’s ankles together and then Mike held his arms behind his back so Jimmy could secure his wrists.  There was no resistance from Joe; he was dazed and hurt, blood seeping from a cut above his eye and from the bite mark on his shoulder.

Randy had calmed somewhat but his blood still boiled and he couldn’t resist walking over to where Joe was lying and, pulling back his foot, he landed a hefty kick to Joe’s groin.

Joe screamed out in agony as waves of pain shot through him.  With head bent forward and knees curled towards his chest he rocked backwards and forwards in an effort to stop the torture.  He was unaware of the three men leaving; his mind was in a different place, a world where each breath only added to his suffering.

***

“Hey come on, ease up…..shush it’s gonna be all right.”

The calming voice hardly registered in Joe’s brain and he choked back another sob as the aura of pain continued.

Julie sighed heavily; sometimes she despaired of Randy, his outbursts could be so violent.  Now what was she to do?  Joe shouldn’t be her responsibility.  Damn Randy for leaving the kid for her to look after.

Walking over to the table she filled a dish with cold water from the jug and lifting her dress she tore a piece of cloth from her petticoat.  Julie returned to where Joe was lying and sitting down on the floor she pulled his head into her lap.

Joe tried to pull away, but Julie stroked him gently and spoke softly in his ear.  “Let me take a look at you,” she cooed.  “I’m sure it ain’t half as bad as you’re making out.”

Soaking the cloth in water, she squeezed it out tight, before applying it to Joe’s blood soaked face.  Silently she tendered to his injuries and before long the water in the bowl had turned pink.  In the meantime Joe was slowly beginning to see through the haze and becoming aware of the woman next to him.

Distractedly Julie continued her administrations and it was several minutes before she realised that Joe was looking at her.  Smiling down at him, she held the cloth to his brow and whispered.

“Feeling better?”

“Much better thanks,” Joe replied.  Then added with a hint of his old self, “But I wouldn’t want to be riding my horse anytime soon.”

Julie threw back her head and laughed and Joe found himself laughing with her.  Lifting Joe’s head from her lap she cajoled, “Come on let’s try and get you over to the bed, I’m sure you’ll be more comfortable there than lying here on the floor.”

With Julie’s help Joe was able to stand, but it was necessary for her to loosen the binds round his ankles in order for him to make his way to the bed and lie down.

For a moment Julie deliberated tying Joe’s feet together again, but then decided he wasn’t in a fit state to make a run for it and she would do it later if the need arose.

As Joe lay back on the bed, eyes closed, catching his breath; Julie leaned over him and stroked the hair back from his face.

“Don’t worry Joe,” she reassured.  “You’re still the most handsome boy in Virginia City, even with your bumps and bruises.”

Joe smiled up at her and tried to wink, which only resulted in him screwing up his face.  “That’s what all the girls say.”

Julie laughed out loud once more.  “You always were the cheeky one, even as a little boy.”  Joe flinched at the reminder of their age difference and Julie smiled to herself at the memory of his first venture into the saloon.  “Now I guess I’d better take a look at the rest of you and make sure there’s nothing broken.”

“It’s all right, I’m fine,” Joe lied as Julie’s hands reached for his shirt.

“Let me be the judge of that,” Julie persisted.

With his hands still tied behind his back Joe wasn’t it a position to put up much resistance and so he lay back on the bed and allowed Julie to unbutton his shirt.

“Ooh that looks painful,” Julie commented as she pushed the shirt from his body and exposed the bite wound to his shoulder.

“It’s not so bad.”

“Still, I think I better clean it up, you never can tell with that sort of thing,” Julie replied, inspecting the wound more closely.

It took but a minute for Julie to change the water in the bowl and get back to Joe.

“Look what I found,” she said holding up the remains of the bottle of whisky from the night before.

“I don’t care much for whisky,” Joe admitted.

“It’s not to drink silly,” Julie warned.  “It’s for your shoulder.”

Joe tried to object, but Julie wouldn’t be put off.  Pouring whisky onto the cloth she held it firmly against the gash on Joe’s shoulder and cleaned the wound and surrounding area.

A sweat broke out on Joe’s skin and he bit on his bottom lip as a searing pain washed over his body; this was almost as bad as the kick to the groin he had taken, well almost, but not quite.

After a few moments Julie’s movements changed and with gentle hands she began to bathe Joe’s body from his neck down to his waist.  Joe’s eyes closed tight shut and he found himself holding his breath; enjoying the sensation of a woman’s hands on his body.

“Aaah,” Joe winced involuntarily when Julie’s administrations came to his right side.

Julie stopped what she was doing and inspected the damage.  “Oh that looks sore,” she sympathised gently probing with her fingers against the tender skin that was already showing signs of bruising.  “Guess Randy packs quite a punch eh?”

“I think it was his foot rather than his fist,” Joe informed her and then groaned again as her fingers probed even more.   “Julie, somehow I don’t think that’s helping.”

“Sorry Joe, I just wanted to make sure there wasn’t any real damage.”

Joe’s moment of relaxation lasted only a second, when his eyes flew open and a shocked expression came onto his face.  Julie’s fingers were nimbly undoing the belt to his pants and he was helpless to stop her.

“W-w-what you doing Julie?”

Julie smiled at his embarrassment.  “Just checking to make sure everything is still in working order handsome.  That was quite a kick Randy gave you.”

“Everything is fine,” Joe responded in a squeaky voice as Julie’s hand strayed across the front of his pants and rubbed slowly up and down.

“That maybe so,” Julie said matter of factly.  “But we need to be sure.”

“N-n-no, nooo this isn’t right,” Joe managed to utter, although he didn’t really sound convincing.

“Shh, just relax,” Julie soothed.  “Let me take care of you.”

Julie by now had Joe’s belt open and was undoing the buttons to his pants.  “Now if we just get these off I’m sure you’ll feel much better.”

“No please,” Joe whispered.  “Y-you shouldn’t……I shouldn’t…..this really isn’t….please s-s-stop.”

The protestations Joe gave verbally didn’t match the reaction of his body.  As Julie tugged at his pants, Joe found himself lifting his hips from the bed in order to assist her.  His mind was saying one thing, but another part of his anatomy was most definitely saying another.

“Why Little Joe,” Julie admonished as she looked down on his naked form.  “Didn’t anyone ever teach you to wear drawers?”

Joe blushed at her words and then shook his head at the absurdity of it.  He was more embarrassed about the fact he wasn’t wearing underclothes than he was about the fact he was naked in front of a woman.

Julie gazed at his nakedness and a lewd smile formed on her lips.  “My my we really are going to have to drop the ‘little’ aren’t we.  Boy you sure have grown up.”

As Julie reached forward and took hold of his penis, Joe’s breathing almost stopped.  He had often wondered what it would be like to have someone other than himself massaging his manhood and he had lain awake many a night thinking about it.  Now that it was actually happening, it fulfilled his wildest dreams and he only hoped he didn’t disgrace himself before it even began.

Julie’s hands ran the length of his shaft and she marvelled at how quickly his erection grew and continued to grow.  She had to admit Joe was certainly every inch a man, but his inexperience could mean things were over very quickly if she didn’t use her knowledge of men to slow things down.  Then again perhaps it was better to let the kid climax quickly; it would mean the main event would be all the more pleasurable, after all most young men could be ready again in a very short space of time.

Dropping to her knees by the bed, Julie leaned forward and tantalisingly allowed her tongue to trace a wet line across the top of Joe’s helmet.  Joe’s eyes opened wide, he was so shocked by the feeling her tongue invoked.  It almost felt that each touch of her tongue was like a burning needle on his flesh, sending sharp little stabs of exquisite pleasure out to every fibre of his being.

Joe had sometimes heard the men in the bunk house inferring to things a woman could do with her tongue, but he never believed it was true, somehow his limited knowledge of the opposite sex had never allowed him to believe that the fairer of the species could actually do something so animalistic.  Julie’s tongue was one thing, but when her mouth opened and she placed his hard phallus into it, his brain just couldn’t comprehend.  It went against everything he had been taught and he was in turmoil.  This wasn’t right, he shouldn’t be doing this.

“No, No, you mustn’t.”

Julie removed his penis from her mouth and looked at him.  “Look Joe,” she began.  “I’m not forcing you to do anything you don’t want to.  Just say the word and I’ll stop.  It’s up to you.”  As she said this Julie’s hands continued to message his testicles and run the length of his shaft.  “Like I said Joe, it’s your decision.”

Joe tried to be strong and do the right thing, but this was too much to ask of anyone and he shook his head.

“Is that a ‘no’ you don’t want me to continue, or a ‘no’ you don’t want me to stop,” Julie asked leaving go of his penis and letting it stand up all on its own.

“Don’t stop,” Joe said in a voice so low it could hardly be heard.

“I didn’t hear you Joe.”

“I-I-I said don’t stop,” Joe replied in a much louder voice.  He was lost, how could he say no to the thing he had been dreaming about since he was fourteen years old; he would just have to make peace with his conscience at a later date.

“Hey, don’t look so sorry about it,” Julie smiled.  “Now just lie back and enjoy the best experience of your life.”

Julie considered herself an expert when it came to matters of the flesh and she was determined to give Joe the full treatment.  Taking holding of his member she used her hands and mouth to bring him to full erection once more.  Then using only her tongue she traced a line just under the rim of his helmet, knowing that her gentle administrations to this erogenous spot was more than most men could take without spilling their load.

Joe’s mind and body were in complete harmony, now the inner turmoil he had experienced earlier was gone and he was more than willing to give himself up to the sheer pleasure her touch and tongue invoked.  His world became one of reflexive muscle contractions and twitches as his passion escalated; his skin flushed, his pulse quickened and his breathing accelerated, causing him to moan out loud.  “Ah…ah…oh,” he said time and time again as his legs became taught and his toes curled up in his boots…….he was about to come and there was nothing he could do, or wanted to do, to stop it.

Julie knew the signs and removing her mouth, she continued caressing gently with her hands until Joe’s instincts took over.  His pelvis thrusts became stronger and more powerful and all Julie had to do was hold him; his own body did the rest.

With an involuntary strangled yell that filled the line shack, Joe’s hips bucked faster and faster until he reached an explosive climax, ejaculating high into the air and over the woman at his side.

Joe’s chest heaved as he drew much needed air into his lungs.  It was several minutes before his breathing returned to normal and he finally opened his eyes.  Julie sat looking at him with a knowing smile on her face.  “Feeling better?” she asked, although she knew full well the answer.

With the clearing of Joe’s mind came the realisation he had just shot his bodily fluids all down the front of Julie’s dress and his face registered his shock and embarrassment as he turned away, unable to look her in the eye.

“Hey, don’t be silly,” Julie cajoled taking hold of his chin and turning his face back to her.  “It was meant to happen that way.”

“But your dress…..” Joe mumbled, still not convinced she wasn’t upset.

“Oh don’t worry about this,” Julie reassured.  “I need to change it anyway.”  And to prove the point she stood up and began to remove her clothes.

Joe watched fascinated as Julie seductively started to strip.  He had seen her body the night before in the half light when she had made love with Randy, but it was different seeing her in full light of day and standing not three feet from him.

Julie really was quite beautiful and she knew it.  Much as she loved Randy, he took her very much for granted and she got a thrill out of seeing the reaction her body was having on the young man in front of her.

Once naked Julie reached for the bowl of water and placed it on the table next to her.  Lifting the cloth from the bowl she squeezed out the excess water and ran it over her face and arms before dipping it back into the water again.  As Joe watched she licked her lips and lifting the dripping cloth again she allowed the water to run freely down over her torso.  With deliberate slow motion she lifted each of her arms in turn and ran the wet cloth under her armpits and over her exposed breasts.  The cold water caused her nipples to harden and Joe’s eyes almost popped out of his head when she took each of the teats in turn and ran them between her thumb and forefinger.

It had never occurred to Joe that a woman would caress her own body in much the same way as a man would, and when Julie guided the wet cloth between her legs and took pleasure in the feeling it gave her; Joe was mesmerised as another part of his education was enhanced.

Julie was delighted to see that Joe’s tool was already showing signs of coming to life again.  She had to admit what young men lacked in experience, they certainly made up for in stamina, and it was obvious Joe had plenty of that.

With her body glistening and pink from the icy cold water, Julie walked to the foot of the bed and took hold of Joe’s left boot.

“I really think you would feel more comfortable without these,” she suggested and proceeded to pull Joe’s boots off one after the other.

No sooner had she removed his boots when she pulled his pants, which had previously been around his ankles, from his legs.

“What do you have in mind?” Joe asked with a new found confidence.

Walking back to the side of the bed Julie allowed her fingers to trail over Joe’s chest and down towards his groin.  “The initiation wouldn’t be complete without the real thing would it?” she asked, allowing the meaning of her words to sink in.

“The real thing,” Joe whispered.  “You mean we are going to…..you want to…with me?”

Julie looked round the line shack.  “I don’t see anyone else here, do you?” she mocked.  “And as I said your education wouldn’t be complete without the ‘real thing’ now would it?”

As Julie had discovered the previous evening when sleeping with Randy, the bed in the line shack was never meant to be shared by two people.  But as Julie had no intention of sleeping, she very gamely climbed onto the bed and, with a little bit of manoeuvring, straddled Joe without too much difficulty.

As Julie’s naked flesh touched that of Joe’s, he groaned anew and his appendage showed every sign of returning to its previous vigour.   Thrusting her pelvis forward, Julie grinded her hips down into Joe’s lap and delighted in the reaction her erotic movements elicited from him.   Each time Julie moved, her breasts bounced freely from side to side and Joe eyes fixated on them, he couldn’t believe how tantalising they looked.

With a mischievous smirk on her face, Julie leaned forward and taking hold of her left breast she rubbed her nipple over Joe’s face, encouraging him to suckle her.  Joe opened his mouth and snaked out his tongue, tentatively licking round the bud before closing his lips around it.

The softness of Julie’s breast upon Joe’s face surprised him.  It wasn’t the first time he had felt a girl’s breast, but in the past his fumblings had been with a girl of his own age and certainly not underneath her clothes.  ‘Good girls’ never allowed him to go that far.

With hands still tied behind his back it was difficult for Joe to take an active part in the proceedings and even though Julie was doing her best to please him, Joe was becoming frustrated with his lack of participation.  He not only wanted to taste her breasts, he wanted to touch them; he wanted to touch all of her.  But most of all he wanted to feel like a man; he wanted to make love to her, not the other way round.  As these thoughts were going round his head he could feel his penis beginning to wilt, he felt emasculated.

It didn’t take Julie long to realise something was wrong and reaching behind her she took hold of his tool.  She was surprised to find him flaccid, when only moments before he had been raring to go.

“What’s the matter honey?” she drawled, running her fingers up and down his shaft.  “You want me to put you in my mouth again?”

Joe shook his head.  “I want you to untie me,” he pleaded.

Julie shook her head, but Joe wasn’t about to give up.  “I want to make love properly,” Joe said urgently.  “You know this is my first time, and….well, it doesn’t feel right….just to lie here, unable to take part.  I want it to be special.  You’re beautiful Julie; please loosen my hands.”

Julie was flattered by his words, but she couldn’t take the risk.  Joe may only be a boy, but she had no doubt of his strength; he could overpower her easily if he wanted to.

“Joe honey, you know I would love to do that, but I can’t, I just can’t.”

“Please Julie,” Joe whined once more.  “It would be so much better if I wasn’t tied up.”

Julie looked down into his adoring eyes and began to weaken.  “The kid’s hooked,” she thought.  “He’ll do anything I say.”

“Joe you have to promise me,” Julie began.  “You have to promise me that afterwards, you’ll let me tie you up again.”

Joe became very serious and with his best ‘puppy dog’ eyes, he looked at Julie and said.  “Do you really think I would try and escape from you?”

“No I guess not,” Julie agreed, ruffling his hair and kissing him on the nose.  She had no doubt that by the time she finished with him he would do absolutely anything she asked of him.

Stepping down from the bed, Julie allowed Joe to turn on his side so she could remove the binds that held his wrists.

As soon as he was free, Joe sat up on the bed and let out a relieved groan.  Stretching out his aching limbs he winced with pain; his shoulders and elbows felt on fire they had been held in the same position for so long.  It only took a few moments before his fingers began to tingle with pins and needles as the circulation began to flow through his hands once more.

Julie was becoming impatient.  “Are you just going to sit there?” she asked, hands on hips, swaying provocatively from one foot to the other.  “We haven’t got all day you know,” she added as a reminder of their situation.

Looking over at her, Joe’s aches and pains disappeared immediately and the blood from his hands began to rush to another part of his anatomy.  A broad smile crossed Joe’s face and he glanced down at his groin.  “See,” he grinned.  “I knew he just needed a little encouragement.”

With renewed vigour it only took a moment for Joe to climb from the bed and stand at Julie’s side.  He wasted no time in taking her in his arms and kissing her full on the mouth; their tongues entwining as their passion grew.

Joe’s hands roamed freely over Julie’s body, marvelling at the feel of her full breasts and the wetness between her legs.  As his fingers probed, Julie’s lips opened invitingly and for the first time in his young life he experienced a woman’s hidden treasure.

With guiding hands Julie encouraged Joe’s fingers to stimulate her clitoris; whispering words of encouragement in his ear.  “That’s it Joe; ah yes nice and slowly at first.  Hmmm that’s right just there, that’s the spot.  D-don’t stop.  Ahhh.”

Julie’s climax was intense and she cried out with abandonment; leaving Joe in no doubt that he had done the right thing.

A woman’s recovery rate is far quicker than a man’s and to Joe’s surprise Julie was ready to go again almost immediately.  “How do you want me Joe?” she asked.  “The choice is yours.”

Joe licked his lips, this really was some invitation.  In his dreams he had woman every way he could think of; lying in his bed, bent over in the hay loft, and even over the dinner table when he was having one of his wildest fantasies.  But now faced with a choice he was unsure what to do; he wanted it all.

Seeing his dilemma, Julie took the initiative and going over to the bed she turned around and lay down on her back.  “Maybe your first time should be traditional,” she teased.  “It’s not the most popular position for nothing,” she added with a wink that promised fulfilment.

In less than two strides Joe was beside her and Julie spread her legs wide so that he could lie between them.  Her hands fluttered between their two bodies and in that instant she was able to confirm that Joe’s manhood was hard and ready for the task at hand.

“Nice and easy at first,” Julie instructed.  “We want to make this last.”

There are some things a man can be taught and some things are purely instinct.  Joe’s member didn’t need any guidance; it found the right opening all on its own.  With a gentle thrust of his hips Joe’s tool entered Julie’s body and speared her to the hilt.

Julie sucked in her breath and shifted her body slightly to accommodate his length.  “You really are a big boy,” she giggled.  “The girls back in the saloon are gonna love you.”

Joe almost preened with pride; it did his ego good to know he wasn’t lacking in that department.  And so, with slow deliberate movements, Joe worked his hips back and forth and revelled in the tightness enveloping his penis; he really wished he could make the feeling last for hours and hours.

As it happened, it hadn’t been long since Joe last climaxed and so he was confident his body would be good for action for quite a while.  With his new found confidence, Joe was anxious to experiment and he pushed himself onto his knees and, without removing his penis, gazed down on Julie’s body as he thrust himself into her again and again.

The sight of the aroused girl below him was very sexy.  Julie laid back with her eyes closed, her arms above her head and her breasts bouncing with every thrust.  Reaching down, Joe took pleasure in manipulating her breasts between his hands, pushing them together and jiggling them up and down.

Joe’s climax was a while coming, but when it did, the intensity left him breathless.  His long slow strokes began to quicken and with each thrust he was fast getting to the point of no return.  With Julie’s hands clawing at his back, his hips pushed harder and faster into her until their flesh was fused together with so much passion they almost became one.  An animalistic cry of pleasure escaped from their lips as they both climaxed one after the other, the one taking over, where the other left off.

Joe lay sated but exhausted next to Julie, and was only brought back to earth with the inevitable separation that came between them as his penis depleted and slipped from her body.  Using his elbow for support, he bent over and kissed the girl gently on the lips.  “That was the most wonderful experience of my life,” he said genuinely.  “I’ll never forget you.”

Julie smiled and stroked his cheek.  “You really are something Joe,” she said with a tinge of sadness.  “In another world, another life, maybe things could have been different between us.”

With a reluctant sigh, Julie climbed over Joe and off the bed.  Walking over to the table she picked up the pieces of rope that had been used to tie Joe’s arms and legs.  “Sorry Joe, but I’m going to have to tie you up again; Randy will expect to find you where he left you.  Now why don’t you quickly get into your clothes and I’ll try and make things as comfortable as possible.”

Joe’s face was at first expressionless when he stood up and crossed over to where Julie was standing.  “I’m sorry Julie,” he said quietly.

“Sorry, sorry for what?” Julie asked in confusion.  “Hey come on, you have nothing to be sorry for.”

“Yes I do,” Joe insisted.  “You see Julie, I’m afraid I’m going to have to tie you up, not the other way round.”

“W-what do you mean?” Julie protested, trying to step away from him.  “You promised me.”

“No Julie,” Joe corrected.  “I said ‘Do you really think I would try and escape from you’.  Well you obviously thought I wouldn’t, but I never promised anything.”

“Why you twisting little liar,” Julie snarled, running at him with fists pounding.

Joe was taken aback at the ferocity of the attack and it took all of his strength to subdue her and tie her hands and feet together in much the same way he had been tied.  Panting for breath, Joe carried the still struggling girl to the bed and laid her down.

It was at least five minutes before Julie stopped hurling abuse at him and ran out of steam.

In the meantime Joe donned his clothes, pulled on his boots and then searched the line shack until he found his gun and gun belt.  Once dressed he walked back to the bed and as he looked down on the naked girl he could feel a tell tale stirring in his pants.  With a shake of his head Joe picked up a blanket and covered the temptress from neck to foot; after all he had more important things to think about.

Before leaving Joe couldn’t resist bending forward and giving Julie one last kiss on the lips.  As he pulled his head away, Julie threw back her head and spat in his face.

“You rat,” she hissed.  “I hope Randy splits you in two and feeds your gizzards to the birds.”

Wiping his face with his sleeve, Joe was unperturbed.  “I’m sorry Julie, really I am.  But as you said ‘In another world, another life, things could have been different’, but when it comes to it, I had a choice to make, you or my family and I’m afraid there isn’t any contest; my family would always come first.”

Joe made to leave but before he exited he turned back and added, “But I meant what I said Julie, that was the most wonderful experience of my life.”

***

Randy, Jimmy and Mike approached Swallow Pass cautiously; after all they didn’t want to be walking into a trap.  Now they had time to think about it, maybe meeting at Swallow Pass wasn’t such a good idea, there were too many places for people to hide and who knew how many men the Cartwrights’ could have hidden behind those rocks.  Still they had the trump card, ‘Little Joe’; Ben Cartwright wouldn’t risk his youngest son’s life, of that they could be sure.

Arriving early had been Randy’s idea and he was now glad he had insisted upon it.  Looking round he assessed each vantage point and picked the right one for them to have the best view of people coming and going.  He instructed Jimmy and Mike to stay out of sight in case there was trouble and then he sat down patiently to wait for a Cartwright.

Randy’s patience was rewarded when Ben Cartwright, Roy Coffee and his brother Martin rode into view and stopped at the entrance to Swallow Pass.

Calling out from his hiding place, Randy told them to stop where they were.  The men stopped, but Roy Coffee removed his gun from its holster and pointed it at Martin Simpson; he didn’t intend to turn him over to his brother without some assurance as to Little Joe’s safety.

Randy stepped into view and called out to his brother.  “You okay Martin?”

“I’m fine Randy; just get me away from here.”

“That’s the idea brother,” Randy replied.  “But first I need to do a deal with Mr Cartwright.”

“What sort of deal?” Roy Coffee called out.

“My brother in exchange for Joe Cartwright.”

“Where is my son?” Ben demanded.  “I want to see him.”

“Now I may be stupid,” Randy responded.  “But I’m not that stupid.  You give me my brother and as soon as we are far away from here and not followed, I’ll release the kid.”

“How do I know he’s alive?” Ben asked.

“He’s fine,” Randy reassured.  “And he’ll stay that way as long as my brother is released.”

“How can I be even sure you have him?” Ben asked.  “What proof do you have?”

Randy picked up the green jacket he had placed on a rock next to him and threw it down so it landed at Ben’s feet.

Ben quickly picked up the jacket and held it up for inspection.  “There’s blood on this,” Ben said in a voice that did nothing to conceal his anger.

“A slap that’s all it was, nothing more,” Randy said with a shrug of his shoulders.  “The kid needs to learn some manners.”

Ben fists clenched with anger.  “If I find out different Simpson, there’s nowhere in this land you can hide, where I won’t find you.”

***

Meanwhile Adam and Hoss had managed to find tracks that the posse had missed.  After several hours they had the line shack in their sights and stopped to take stock.

“Do you suppose that’s where they’ve been hiding out?” Adam asked, looking down at his brother.

Hoss was bent down on his hunkers, his eyes taking in all the tell tale signs that the men had left behind.

“I would say so,” Hoss replied.  “But they ain’t there now.  These tracks are pretty fresh; I would say they rode through here in the last couple of hours.”

“That figures,” Adam agreed.  “Must be on their way to meet up with Pa.”

Standing up and climbing back on his horse, Hoss looked long and hard at the line shack trying to judge if there were any signs of life.

“What do you think Adam?”

“There’s no horses outside,” Adam observed.  “But that doesn’t mean it’s empty.”

“We need to check it out anyway,” Hoss decided.  “Little Joe could still be in there.”

“That’s just what I was thinking,” Adam admitted.  “How about you approach from the left and I’ll take the right.  Just be careful Hoss,” he added unnecessarily.

After tying their horses to a nearby tree, Hoss and Adam split up and went in different directions.  Several minutes later the two men approached the line shack from either side and, with guns at the ready, made their way forward.

Once outside the door, Adam nodded to his brother to cover him and then in one swift movement, he kicked open the door and darted inside.  Twisting quickly round he was relieved to find there was no threat and he had already replaced his gun back in its holster when Hoss came crashing through the door behind him.

“No one here?” Hoss asked, slightly disappointed.

“Well not quite no one,” Adam corrected, pointing over to the corner of the room.

Both men were slightly puzzled when approaching the bed.  Why was Julie just lying there looking at them like that?

“You okay Julie?” Hoss asked, not quite sure what to make of the expression on Julie’s face.

 

“Just get me out of here,” Julie hissed.  She had been lying in the bed for over an hour and she was beginning to get a taste of what Little Joe had been suffering.

Adam reached forward and pulled the blanket from the bed, exposing the naked, tied up girl below.

Hoss was at a complete loss for words, although if truth be known it wasn’t the first time he had seen Julie naked; not by a long way.

Adam took his knife from its sheath and sliced through the binds at Julie’s feet.  He then pushed her onto her side and did the same to the ties on her hands.  “What happened to you?” he asked, somewhat concerned for the helpless girl.

“Your little brother, that’s what happened,” Julie said with venom.  “The little double-crosser tied me up and left me.”

Adam and Hoss exchanged glances.  “Little Joe?”

Julie stood with hands on hips completely unabashed about her nudity.  “Little Joe,” she spat.  “I was real nice to him and this is how he repays me.  If I get my hands on him he’ll wish he’d never been born.”

Adam’s eyebrows knitted together and he looked at her anew as the meaning of her words began to sink in. “Seems to me you already had your hands on him Julie,” he stated, a flash of anger passing over him.

“What you getting all prissy about?” Julie reacted, her anger clearly clouding her judgement.  “I’m the one that should be angry.  I show the kid a good time and instead of being grateful he ties me up and leaves me for Randy to find.  Can you imagine what Randy would have done to me if he had found me like that?”

“I know what my Pa would want to do to you,” Hoss responded.  “Little Joe is just a kid.”

Julie by now had her back to the brothers as she put on her clothes, but at Hoss’ words she turned and smiled at them knowingly.  “Well he’s not a kid anymore, that much I can tell you.”

Adam had to stop himself from slapping the smile from her face; at one time he had felt sorry for her being mixed up with someone like Randy, but now he felt they deserved each other.

“Hurry up and get dressed,” he snapped.  “You can come along with us.  I’m sure the Sheriff will want to know what your part is in all of this.”

That statement wiped the smile from her face much quicker that a slap would have done.  “Hey listen Adam, I had no idea what Randy was up to. You have to believe me.”

“Save it for the Sheriff,” Adam replied.  “Now let’s get going.”

***

Little Joe had taken Julie’s horse when he left the line shack and he was just approaching Swallow Pass as Ben and the Sheriff were preparing to release Martin into the care of his brother.  Joe’s body ached from head to toe from the beaten he had taken earlier but he forced himself to ride harder in order to reach them before the exchange took place.

“Your choice Cartwright,” Randy called out.  “My brother comes with me now and you give us two days start and I’ll let the boy go.  You have my word on that.”

Ben Cartwright put no store on Randy’s word, but what else could he do.  He only hoped that Little Joe was still alive and that in two day’s time, when he was of no more use to them, they would release him.

Roy Coffee was not so easily swayed.  Turning to his friend he argued, “I can’t do this Ben, I have a job to do.”

“Little Joe’s life is at stake Roy.”

“Who’s to say they will let him go in two day’s Ben?” Roy asked.  He knew what Ben’s answer would be, but then again, if Little Joe had been his son he would have put up the same argument.

Ben hoped it wouldn’t come to this, but if Roy wouldn’t budge, he would override him; his son was his prime concern and nothing else mattered.

The two men faced one another; each facing a moral dilemma, not knowing if their decision would be the right one.

“I-I’m sorry Roy……” Ben began, his hand reaching for his gun.  But he was cut off in mid-sentence when a single gunshot filled the air.

All eyes turned towards the sound and Ben was overjoyed to see his youngest son perched on the top of a nearby hill, gun in hand, looking down on the scene below.

“JOE!” Ben shouted.  “You okay son?”

“I’m fine,” Joe shouted back, waving his hand in greeting.  “But watch out Pa, there’s another two of them hiding somewhere here.”

The words had hardly left Joe’s mouth when a bullet whizzed past his head, making him duck down and dive for cover.

It was three against three and Randy didn’t like the odds; so with the heart of a coward he turned tail and ran, leaving his two cronies and his brother to their fate.  The chips were down but there was no reason why he shouldn’t escape with the girl and the money.

Mike and Jimmy held their positions for almost an hour, but with Roy Coffee and Ben Cartwright in front of them and the Cartwright kid coming up behind, they had no place to run and eventually they gave themselves up and turned themselves over to the Sheriff.

Leaving the three men handcuffed and in the care of Roy Coffee, Ben was anxious to see for himself that Joe was unhurt and he rode towards his youngest son.  Joe on the other hand had mixed feelings about meeting up with his Pa; much as he wanted to be reunited with his father, there were certain aspects of the last twenty-four hours he wasn’t altogether comfortable about discussing.

Those misgivings were soon forgotten when Joe caught sight of his father’s worried face and he rushed forward to be caught in a fierce bear hug as Ben encircled him with his arms.  “Thank God,” Ben repeated again and again as he satisfied himself that Joe was still in once piece.  Joe did his best not to cry out but the tightness of his father’s grasp on his aching ribs was too painful to bear and he yelped despite himself.

Ben was at once contrite and he released Joe from him and holding him at arm’s length he ran a parental eye over his face and body.  Noticing the blackened eyes, the cut forehead and the bruised chin, Ben could only guess at the hidden bruises under Joe’s clothing.

“My God, what did they do to you son?” Ben wailed.

“I’m okay Pa,” Joe reassured.  “I probably look worse than I feel.”

Ben wasn’t convinced, but before he could scrutinise him further, Joe said anxiously.  “What about Randy Pa?  We have to go after him; we can’t let him get away.”

“Somehow I don’t think he’ll get far,” Ben surmised.  “He might find a little surprise waiting for him.  Or should I say two big surprises.”

Joe looked at him in puzzlement and Ben laughed.  “If your brother Hoss is as good a tracker as he says he is, I think him and Adam will be well placed to pick up Randy Simpson before he gets too far.”

Ben was right.  By the time he and Joe had returned to Sheriff Coffee, Adam and Hoss could be seen in the distance riding towards them.  Randy and Julie were riding together on one horse and it soon became obvious to the waiting men that they were not too happy with the arrangement; gone was the intimacy they had previously shared.

“Should of known better than to put my trust in a whore,” Randy growled.

“Call yourself a man?” Julie spat back at him.  And was about to elaborate on her statement, when Adam intervened.

“Pipe down,” he instructed.  “It’s a long ride back to town and I’m not about to listen to you two going at it all along the trail.”

***

As Adam and Hoss came into view from one direction, Clem and a couple of deputies came towards them from another.  Ben looked at Roy questioningly.

“I’m a lawman Ben,” Roy said by way of explanation.  “I couldn’t just let them ride off without having a contingency plan.”

If things had turned out differently, Ben may have had further to say on the subject, but as it was he just smiled and nodded his head, at least they wouldn’t be called upon to take the prisoners back to town.

As all parties came together and Roy and his deputies took charge of Julie, Randy and his men; Joe stayed in the background and tried not to bring attention to himself.  Adam and Hoss were overjoyed to see their younger brother, battered and bruised, but otherwise safe and well.  Ben put Joe’s reticence down to the rough experience he had had at the hands of Randy Simpson and when Roy and the others finally rode away he was quick to approach and put a comforting hand on Joe’s shoulder.

“It’s all over Joe; don’t worry those men will finally get what they deserve.”  Then turning to his other two sons he said quietly, “Your young brother has been through quite an ordeal; let’s get him home where he belongs.”

“Sure Pa,” Hoss agreed, placing his own arm around Joe’s shoulder and walking with him to his horse.

Joe took his time to climb into the saddle; now that the adrenalin had stopped pumping he felt completely exhausted from lack of sleep and food, not to mention his various other aches and pains.

Adam rode alongside his brother’s horse and, once his father and Hoss were out of earshot, he turned to Joe and asked for the first time.  “You okay Joe……I mean really okay?”  Before he and Hoss had apprehended Randy, Julie had delighted in giving the brothers a blow by blow account of how she had seduced their baby brother and how she had turned the reluctant boy into a man.  This was not the way Adam would have wished his brother to have his first experience; beaten, helpless and frightened for his life.

Joe had no doubt that Adam was aware of what had gone on between him and Julie and not only was he afraid of what his brother would think of him, he was afraid of what his brother would tell his father.  But when Joe turned slowly to look at the man at his side, he didn’t see anything in his brother’s eyes, but a deep concern.

“I’m fine Adam,” Joe whispered, before swallowing hard and lowering his eyes to the ground in front of him.  “I-I-I’m sorry if you think the worst of me, but I did…..”

Adam cut him off.  “You did what you had to Joe; anyone else would have done the same in those circumstances.”

Adam’s understanding in some ways made Joe feel worse, after all he may not have had much of a choice in the beginning, but at the end of the day he had been more than a willing participant in Julie’s games.

“Don’t look so guilty,” Adam admonished.  “Hey I’m a man too you know and put in the same position, I wouldn’t have done things differently.”  Seeing Joe’s face brighten he added, “But when it came down to it you thought of your family and their safety.  You did the right thing Joe.”

Joe bit on his bottom lip and said haltingly, “Thanks Adam; but it wasn’t all bad.”

Adam laughed out loud.  “I’m sure it wasn’t……. but the fun you had along the way……well just put it down to experience and an added bonus for the rest of the abuse you had to put up with.”

Joe looked over at Adam and smiled sheepishly as his brother’s grinning face.  “What will you tell Pa?” he asked.

“There are some things a parent is best not knowing,” Adam said under his breath.  “Just don’t ever tell him I said so.”

At Adam’s words Joe let out a deep sigh of relief, but Adam wouldn’t let him totally off the hook.

“But you may want to get your story straight as to what you were doing in that area in the first place, cause once Pa has checked out your injuries, he’s going to want some answers.”

***

The weeks went by and life at the Ponderosa had returned to normal.  Joe’s body had healed and he was once again getting into the usual scrapes and mischief that exasperated both his Pa and brothers.

Saturday afternoon had arrived and Hoss and Adam sat at the lunch table with their Pa discussing their plans for the afternoon.

“If you’re heading into town Adam, would you mind picking me up some tobacco from the mercantile as I’m about to run out?”  Ben asked.

“Sure Pa,” Adam responded.  “What you doing this afternoon Hoss?”

“Oh I thought I might join you in town Adam.  Now that Mr Hightower is almost back to normal, he and Bessie Sue have gone to visit relatives in San Francisco for a week or two.”

“What about Joe?” Adam asked looking round for his youngest brother.  “Where is he anyway?”

“You know Joe,” Ben smiled.   “He decided to skip lunch so he could go into town early.  I suspect some little girl has taken his eye and he’s going to moon around looking for a chance to spark her.”

Hoss and Adam exchanged a warning glance.  Maybe they should have a word with their little brother and emphasise the dangers of putting his recent education into practice with the young women he may meet in town.  Unlike the girls in the saloon, those young women tended to have fathers and brothers, who in turn had loaded shotguns.

As Adam and Hoss approached town, Adam glanced down the road that led to Molly’s house.

“Hoss,” he began.  “Do you ever think there could be something going on between Pa and Molly?”

Hoss pulled up his horse and almost burst out laughing.  “And you call yourself the intelligent one!”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“I’ll tell you what it means big brother,” Hoss imparted.  “There’s been something going on between Molly and our Pa since Little Joe was caught sneaking into the saloon when he was just a young ‘un, and I can’t believe you didn’t know.”

Adam was momentarily lost for words.  He always prided himself on being the observant one; how could he have been so blind.

“Does Little Joe know all about it?”

Hoss shook his head.  “Naw I don’t think so.  Kids like Joe tend to think that men of Pa’s age are well over the hill when it comes to matters of the flesh.”

As the two brothers entered the saloon, Adam was still shaking his head with disbelief.  “Pa of all people!  And all these years.”

The saloon was quite busy for a Saturday afternoon and Adam and Hoss ordered a beer each and headed for the only empty table in the room.  Adam’s eyes scoured the crowded bar but he didn’t find what he was looking for.

“You looking for Susie?” Hoss asked, a knowing smile on his face.

Adam smiled back.  “It’s been a long time little brother and if it’s good enough for Pa, then it’s good enough for me.”  But Susie was nowhere to be seen.  Maybe Betty would have known where she was, but he couldn’t see Betty either.

One of the new girls sashayed past and stopped at the brothers’ table.  “Can I get you gents something?” she asked provocatively, swaying her hips from side to side.

“Two more beers please Miss,” Adam ordered and waited for her to go to the bar and return to the table.

“Is something wrong with Susie or Betty?” Adam asked as he handed the girl a dollar bill.  “They don’t seem to be here today.”

The girl chuckled as she took the bill from his hand.  “Oh they’re here all right, but they’re busy with a customer.” She indicated her head towards the ceiling.

“You mean with customers?” Adam corrected, a frown settling on his handsome face.  He knew he had no rights over Susie and he wasn’t really jealous, it’s just he had been planning this afternoon all week.

“No Mister, you heard me right the first time.  They are both with the same customer.  Didn’t know him myself, but he knew the girls and the girls certainly knew him.  Just a young fellow, real nice looking, and boy has he got stamina.  From what I’ve been told he’s been at it now for two hours and still raring to go.  If he keeps this up, I think I’ll have to go and help them poor girls out.”  With that the girl walked away laughing and headed towards her next customer.

“Nice looking,” Adam said between clenched teeth.

“Young fellow!” Hoss repeated.

Both brothers locked eyes and with a resigned sigh they said in unison, “Little Joe!!”

The End

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