Disclaimer: Once again, I don't own these GW characters and make not even a dime from spending hours writing about them.

Warnings: AU, sexual situations, yaoi 1x2, 3x4, and various past relationship

The Pretender
Chapter 2
by Dyna Dee

Hilde turned out to be a young woman in her early twenties, or so he guessed, with short black hair hidden almost completely beneath a brown, wide-brimmed cowboy hat. Her tanned skin was free of blemish other than a smattering of freckles across the bridge of her trim little nose which was set above a wide mischievous grin. Her small, boy-like body was clothed in faded blue jeans with a leather belt and a large silver belt buckle, a cotton floral print blouse with pearl snaps down the front and over the breast pockets, and worn cowboy boots. She talked faster than a friendly New York cab driver during rush hour as she saddled their horses, describing how the task was done, then proceeded to instruct him on how to mount the saddle and use the reins to turn, stop and back the enormous animal up. He didn't quite understand her description of the different ways to kick a horse, getting the beast to move at different gaits and speed, so he resigned himself to learning that the hard way, by trail and error. Jazz, the buckskin horse that was his mount, appeared enormous and unfriendly from where he stood three feet away from the snorting, dirt pawing animal. With a nervousness he rarely experienced, he put his sneaker into the stirrup and pulled himself up into the saddle. Sitting on top of the behemoth a few minutes later didn't help the city boy feel any better about this planned adventure.

Hilde, now seated on her own white and black Appaloosa, grabbed the reins from him and led his horse out of the corral then turned them toward a well-worn trail behind the barn. Duo quickly picked up yet another interesting fact about his horse; Jazz seemed to like one particular gait, trotting. He was pretty sure his teeth were going to be ruined after the severe jaw snapping jarring they experienced from the punishing up and down movement. Holding onto the saddle horn with a death grip, his horse continued to trot, threatening to unseat him at any moment before Hilde grabbed onto the harness, causing Jazz to slow to a walk. Duo's hands were aching from the tight grip he'd had on the saddle horn, and they hadn't even left the property yet. His feeling of doom fail to lift after noticing his guide seemed highly amused by his struggles as a novice horse rider.

He was enormously grateful when the horses finally slowed to a steady walking pace as they began to climb the inclining path that wove up the green hills. As he became more familiar with the feel of the animal beneath him, Duo relaxed and eventually began to enjoy the beauty of his surroundings.

Charise told him she'd owned this ranch for a little over five years and came to it whenever she could manage to get away from her hectic life. Duo had been here before, but only on working vacations such as this one. Never during those previous visits had he taken part in the many activities a modern ranch had to offer, he'd been too busy trying to carry out his tasks and prepare for the next day, an upcoming meeting, event or to circumvent an impending disaster. His position as Charise's assistant was both coveted by other workers as well as a source of pity from them. Charise was a well-known perfectionist and task master. He'd caught her eye shortly after he'd started working at Duframe Designs, having been hired by one of her college recruiters. He'd happily accepted the initial job offer, knowing he'd be starting at the bottom, but with high hopes for climbing the corporate ladder as he proved his business acumen, skills and willingness to learn.

Initially, he'd been hired as an assistant to another assistant in wardrobe, and was placed in a busy workroom on the far end of the design floor, also known as the outer limits. Regardless of his lowly position, he'd been introduced to the company's namesake on his second day on the job. He would never forget how the famous designer's eyes widened at first sight of him, and a slow, Cheshire cat grin grew on her face. "Exquisite," she'd said approvingly, and he recalled how his ears had burned with embarrassment. He was aware that others found him attractive, but he'd always downplayed his appearance, finding, in most cases, his looks generally brought him more grief than good fortune.

His job, during the first month at Duframe Designs, consisted of menial tasks and fetching for the design team and their assistants. He gave each task his full attention and learned everything he could about the fashion world from the lower end of the business. At the six week mark, the assistant over him delivered a summons to Charise's office. He'd set down the phone list he'd been calling from, made sure his shirt was tucked in properly before putting on his suit jacket, then went directly to her office, ignoring the curious eyes following him.

No one was more stunned than he when Charise offered him the job as executive assistant. By the way she'd appraised his appearance, her eyes moving from head to toe, he guessed that the designer had probably elevated him from his lowly place in wardrobe on account of his looks. Whatever her reason for choosing him above all others, he wasn't about to turn down a prime job with a healthy increase in income. If his appearance got him through the door, he would prove to her that he was worth the opportunity she was giving him. With that as his goal, he quickly made himself indispensable to the famous designer, doing whatever he could to make her day run smoothly.

In time, not only did he prove himself adept at multitasking, but he'd also gained a friend and staunch ally. Charise treated him with the utmost respect, though she seemed to love dragging out of him each and every little tidbit of his personal life that she could. She had laughed and cried with him and even became protective of her "darling Duo", and sometimes, like today, tried to arrange his life for him. He generally tolerated her interference, knowing she did it for all the right reasons; she honestly cared about him.

He shifted in the saddle and winced. His backside and thighs were beginning to feel sore, unfamiliar with horseback riding. He had to admit a little pain was worth it, though, for the countryside was beautiful, the air refreshingly clear. Everything here was so different from his life in Los Angeles. As the horse continued to climb the winding hillside trail, he let his mind wander, imagining what it must have been like to be a cowboy in the eighteen hundreds, taming the wild west. He loved reading, especially stories about the old west, both autobiographical and fiction, but working for Charise during the past few years hadn't allowed him the time to indulge in his favorite past time. Reading for pleasure definitely took a back seat when the need for sleep weighted him down.

It could have been the slow rocking movement caused by the horse's steady climbing, as well as the unique view of the rugged mountain trail and enjoying the peace of the outdoors that allowed him to truly relax and indulge his active imagination by conjuring up stories he'd read as a teenager featuring cowboys, cattle ranches and the gold rush. He tried to imagine what his life would have been like had he lived then. He chuckled to himself, unable to imagine life as a gay cowboy. No doubt he wouldn't have had a very happy life, living back in the days of the wild west, not from the stories he'd read. He stopped himself from following that particular train of thought, choosing to think more positive on such a beautiful day.

Shutting out all negative thoughts, he tried to imagine what it would have been like to be a cowboy or settler in the 1800's. A man living in the eighteen hundreds would have to be strong enough to ride a horse for hours on end, turn a field, fight attacking Indians or encroachers, maybe even a defend himself from a bear or mountain lion. He settled an image in his mind of a cowboy and suddenly found himself being terribly turned on by the idea of meeting one. He happened to be attracted to strong, take charge kind of guys.

Shaking his head, he reminded himself that fiction was not reality, and that the only cowboys he'd seen were in Texas, when he'd accompanied Trowa on a business trip. They'd gone to a bar to get a feel for the locals, and he had to admit that the rugged, good looking men he'd met- dressed in tight jeans, cowboy boots and western hats - were pretty hot.

He was brought out of his daydream of dancing with a tall, dark and handsome Texan when the horses reached the summit. Hilde stopped their mounts and let Duo take in the view. It was stunning. Rolling hills painted with yellow grass and wild flowers and dotted by patches of pine trees made up a greater part of the landscape that surrounded them, and he could see for miles and miles in every direction. "Fantastic," he whispered in awe. Looking behind him, his eyes traced the long path leading back to the Charise's ranch, which now seemed so far away. Hilde assured him the ranch was only about three miles back, as the crow flies, though the horses had walked much further.

Over the top of the rolling hills and in the distance he could see a small city and thought about how nice it would be to live in such a bucolic setting. They dismounted, with a little difficulty on his part due to stiffness, and Hilde spread out a blanket and the two of them enjoyed a leisurely lunch consisting of a couple of sandwiches, fruit and soft drinks. While his companion re-packed what was left of their meal, prattling on about a movie she'd seen the week before, he took a moment to breathe in deeply and stretch his legs and back muscles while enjoying the smell of pine trees and clean air that he rarely experienced living in a large city. Then over his companion's shoulder, he spotted something unusual half way down the next hill. Cut into the hillside there appeared to be a large ranch surrounded by lush greenery. In the center of the property sat a stately yellow house, one that looked plucked out of the Victorian age.

"What's that?" He pointed towards the oddity set in the Sierra landscape.

Hilde followed his line of sight and a smile came to her lips as she saw what he was referring to. "Ah, that's The Light On The Hill," she answered.

Duo lifted his sunglasses to get a better look at it. It appeared to be a ranch house, and a good sized one at that. "A religious retreat."

Hilde's bark of laughter told him he'd guessed wrong. "A house of pleasure. Here, I'll give you a boost up." She led him to his horses side and help him to remount.

Duo was still thinking about her description of the house. A house of pleasure could mean either a full-treatment spa or a whore house. From the rather salacious grin on his companion's face, he guessed it was the latter. "Ever been to one?" she asked with a suggestive wiggle of her black eyebrows.

He blinked at her question. "Um... I'm gay."

She simple shrugged at his confession. "They cater to most sexual preferences. What do you say we drop by there on the way back, let the horses get a drink and rest our legs?"

Duo bit his lip, "I don't know," he said worriedly, even as Hilde's horse began to move forward. What was he to do but follow?

A good hour later Duo felt some of his hesitation for stopping at the house of ill repute slip away, mostly because he was warm, thirsty and had to take a piss - something he did not want to do with Hilde watching. As they continued on the dusty trail, Hilde spoke at great length about The Light On The Hill, which, she informed him, had been open for business since the turn of the century. She added that it was rated as a five-star brothel. Duo wondered if there really was such a rating, and who in hell judged such a thing?

According to his guide, the Light on the Hill was famous for attracting rich clientele from both near and far. She assured him the place would be nearly deserted this time of day, with the employees spending most of the daylight hours sleeping and preparing for the evening to come. They'd just stop, take a quick look around while stretching their legs before heading back down to Charise's ranch.

As they drew closer, Duo could better appreciate the size of the ranch. The garden surrounding the house was enormous, with tall leafy trees, shrubs and flowers presenting the picture of an oasis in the middle of nowhere. The house itself was nestled in the center front of all the greenery. The structure itself was three stories tall, painted in a soft shade of yellow with white trim and shutters. Adding to the picturesque setting was a large wrap-around porch, including two old-fashioned swings and hanging baskets with cascading flowers, making the house fit perfectly with his idea of the old west. A well-cared for barn, painted in the same pale yellow, was set off to the far right of the house and added to the western charm, as did the white painted fence surrounding the property, containing both cattle and horses, which were presently grazing contentedly within its protective borders.

As they made their approach, Duo noticed a person sitting on the fence, not far from the barn. Most likely an employee, he thought. He couldn't determine what the man was doing other than enjoying the warm afternoon, but even from a distance Duo thought the man looked picture perfect. The man was wearing faded blue jeans and a plaid, long-sleeved shirt that no doubt had pearl snaps down the front and over the pockets, similar to Hilde's shirt. The man's tan cowboy hat was tilted back slightly, showing a hint of dark hair beneath. He looked like someone who had stepped out of the past and into the present, a true cowboy. Duo's pants tighten in response to his fantasy of being swept off his feet by a strong, capable, manly man.

It took everything in him to pull his eyes away from the vision before him, and just before he managed to do so the object of his fantasy turned his head and looked directly at him in return. Duo quickly looked forward, blushing with embarrassment at having been caught staring. But damn, that was one good-looking cowboy. Even with the closing distance that separated them, he could appreciate the tan skin, dark hair and a piercing gaze that seemed to look right through him. What would it be like to have a man like that? he asked himself, but then his inner voice scathingly reminded him that such a wish was next to impossible. Even if the cowboy was gay and interested him, he'd no doubt lose him as he had all the others he'd dated after they found out about his not-so-little problem.

Fantasize, that's what Dorothy had encouraged him to do. The long-haired blond and unorthodox therapist was his latest and near desperate attempt to fix himself. When he came to believe that Quatre had gone as far as he possibly could, he'd pulled out a card he'd held onto for nearly a year and called the unconventional therapist. Being a sex therapist, Dorothy's methods were focused on attacking his problem while Quatre was determined to dig deep into his past, find and treat the reason for his problem. He had his fingers crossed that between the two of them he'd be cured.

Dorothy had suggested he try a little role playing to teach him how to go about using a fantasy in order to have sex with someone. He was making progress, or that's what he liked to believed. Dorothy told him just last week that he was ready, it was just a matter of time until he met the right person. He just had to loosen up and believe it was possible and that any discomfort he'd feel initially at penetration did not mean it was wrong, vile, disgusting or perverted, as his aunt had drilled into his head countless times during his teenage years.

Both Quatre and Dorothy had attributed his fear of intimacy as coming from his aunt, who had systematically poisoned his mind, crippling him from having sex with anyone of the same sex. His aunt had done so believing she was guiding him toward a heterosexual lifestyle. Even to this day she refused to believe that it wasn't his choice to be gay; that he could change his tendencies if he chose to do so.

Funny, he thought, how both of his therapists had determined the cause of his "problem", and yet the two had never spoken with each other. He'd been seeing Quatre for nearly two years, including the months after Trowa had left him. Dorothy came recommended by an old flame, another great potential partner who couldn't wait for him to get "fixed". He'd been seeing her on the sly without Quatre's knowledge. She was unusual in her approach to his problem, probably unethical compared to Quatre's standards, but most likely the one who was actually helping with his intimacy issues.

Fantasies were good, Duo thought, shifting his mind away from his problems. He was actually very good at using his imagination, pretending the world was better than it was, that his problems were less than they were. How else could he have gotten through all the breakups and heartbreaks he'd endured over the past seven years?

The horses stopped at the side of the impressively large house where there was a long post for wrapping the reins around, and a metal trough of water for the horses to drink from. He dismounted his horse and sighed with relief. Hilde snatched up the reins and tied them to the hitching post. Ignoring the few cars parked some distance away, it was easy to look at the place and picture being in the eighteen hundreds. Duo let his imagination run, conjuring up the story that he'd just arrived at the House on the Hill, having been hired by... the owner of the famous pleasure house. His reputation as a male courtesan had preceded him. Hilde was his contact, having met him at the ... train station. He smiled, thinking the story felt right and that he could imagine himself in such a place and time, regardless that he had limited experience in the sex department.

Thinking about his fantasy self, he wondered what a good name for a male prostitute back in the eighteen hundreds would be. Dan? Danny? No, not the right period. Hustace? Eww, no. Wade was too common, but what about... Laredo, as in Laredo, Texas? He recalled a song his eighth grade choral class had sung about a man dying on the streets of that town, calling out to people who passed by and telling them how he should be buried. Yeah, Laredo was a good name for a man of ... ill repute. Duo chuckled to himself, amused by the story forming in his head.

His amusement lasted only a moment, however, for as soon as he took a step away from his horse he found his legs had turned to rubber. He held himself against the horse, hands locked onto the saddle's edge until Hilde came up to him and slung one of his arms over her shoulder. "Sorry," she apologized with a slightly contrite grin. "I guess we came a bit far for a beginner, but I have to tell you, Duo, you're doing very well for your first time riding."

"Thanks," he mumbled between gritted teeth as he tried to make his bowed legs work. Damn, now he knew why cowboys wore chaps, to distract anyone from seeing how bowlegged they were.

Hilde led him slowly up the front porch steps and together they entered the house without knocking. Duo wondered why she didn't knock, then presumed that perhaps customers didn't have to knock at the door of a whore house. It must be like any business establishment where customers are always welcome.

Just like he would have imagined, the entry looked like it was from another era. The interior was elegant, with soft white and gold embossed wallpaper, Victorian chairs and settees upholstered in color rich fabric, and a massive crystal chandelier hanging above a lush pale green floral carpet. To the right of the lobby and adjacent to the magnificent staircase, sat a high-gloss, carved wood counter. Behind it stood a beautiful young blond woman dressed in a midriff-showing checkered blouse, a braid hanging over each shoulder, and a warm smile on her lips. "Hello, Hilde. It's good to see you again."

"Hi, Jillian," the dark haired girl replied while continuing forward to the bar. "My friend and I were riding by and need to take a break. It's his first time on a horse."

Jillian's blue eyes shifted to Duo before they moved with apparent appreciation from his head down to his feet and back up again. "Are you sure you aren't looking for a job, honey?" she asked him. "With your looks you could make us a fortune."

Duo laughed nervously. "I've already got a great job, but thanks," he replied feeling the heat of embarrassment on his cheeks.

The blond shook her head. "Our loss," she said with a dismissive wave of her hand. "What can I get you? Ibuprofen, a shot of whisky or perhaps a massage?"

"All three," he and Hilde answered at the same time, then laughed together, amused.

From under the counter Jillian pulled out a bottle of the promised pain reliever and a bottle of water and pushed both of them towards Duo. "First things first," she said.

The lid on the bottle broke as he twisted it, and he thought water had never tasted better as he took a long swig to chase the pills down his throat. He then proceeded to drink the contents of the entire bottle, trying to quench his thirst. He then remembered the second reason he had decided to visit this establishment. "Restroom?"

"This way," Jillian said, stepping around the counter to lead him down a hallway.

"Is Antonio up yet?" Duo looked to his companion as she asked the question in a casual manner, as if she were asking about a mutual acquaintance, but in her eyes he glimpsed a spark of excitement, maybe even lust.

"He's always ‘up' when it comes to you, Hilde," Jillian chuckled while taking Duo's arm. "Why don't you knock on his door and see if he's presentable. We'll square things up before you leave."

Hilde nodded, then looked apprehensively at him before returning to the waiting blonde. "I guess I really shouldn't. Charise told me to take good care of Duo. I don't feel right leaving him on his own in a place he's never been before."

Duo felt his arm patted. "Let me take care of him. I'll see to it he has his whisky and massage. He'll be loosened up and ready to ride by the time you're done riding Antonio."

Hilde's eyes shot to Duo, and they blushed in unison at the other woman's forthright and crude comment. "Are you okay with this, Duo? I mean, I really don't know you at all, and if you're not comfortable being here we'll leave. I don't want it to get back to Charise that you were forced into staying here when you didn't want to."

Even though a part of him wanted to get the hell out of there, he could tell that Hilde did not want to leave. "No, it's okay," he told her with a bit of reluctance. After all, she was his way back to civilization. "Besides, if you tried to get me back on that horse right now, you'd have a battle on your hands." And that was the truth. His butt and inner thigh muscles ached something terrible.

Hilde gave him a grateful smile, then turned to walk briskly toward the thick carpeted staircase and took them two at a time all the way to the top.

"And a gentleman, too." Duo turned his head at Jillian's comment and met her smiling eyes. "Come on, handsome, I'll show you the men's room and then get you that drink."

Feeling much better after relieving his aching bladder, Duo enjoyed the whiskey Jillian provided him, and then much more slowly enjoyed another. He was feeling pretty damn relaxed by the time she led him to the massage room. As instructed, he undressed in a curtained booth, wrapped a small towel around his waist, then lay on the table and waited for the licensed masseuse to come in and take care of his aches and pains.

He easily drifted into his earlier fantasy, imagining he was Laredo, the sought after male prostitute, having newly arrived at his new workplace. The trip by coach, train and then horseback had been dusty and grueling, but the brothel's management had promised to take good care of him, and proved it by hiring a trained masseuse from ‘Frisco to see to his every need.

He opened his eyes when the door opened and was pleasantly surprised when a petite and highly attractive Asian woman entered the room, dressed in a white silk kimono. She was a perfect fit for the role he'd cast her in: an immigrant from China, forced to work at the brothel in order to pay the debt her family owed to the railroad company when her brothers had been injured in carving a tunnel through the mountains.

Hands small but strong and very proficient moved across his back, over the taut muscles on his gluteus maximus and thighs. He moaned as she pushed hard, forcing the muscles to contract and then relax. She spoke not a word to him while she worked her magic, which allowed him to relax even further. There was more pleasure to be found in this place than just sex, he decided. He was on the edge of falling sleep when he realized that she had stopped. Opening his eyes, he was surprised to find the room was empty. He lay there for only a few more moments before his curiosity got the better of him and he eased himself up into a sitting position. Moving slowly, he returned to the changing room only to find his clothes were gone and a silk robe lay folded on the bench with a note with a printed map on it inviting him to enjoy the hot tubs to the rear of the garden. Hilde must be having one hell of a good time upstairs to be taking so long, he thought.

The robe was yellow, perfectly matching the color of the house. Must be a theme, he concluded. He was just glad that it covered him to just above his knees. Taking the printed invitation with him and hoping he wouldn't meet anyone on his way there, he followed the map through the door down the hall and out into the enclosed garden to the back of the house. He blinked in surprise to find a series of paths leading away from the building, and by the height of the shrubs, the tops of tall foliage-covered trellises and shaded trees, the garden offered a lot of privacy from both the house and surrounding hillsides.

As directed, he took the path to the right which led him past many secluded benches of which he could only imagine were meant for an outdoor tryst. Just the thought of being that daring and open caused his heart to skip a beat. He kept walking, willing his growing erection away because he knew that silk spots easily and hides nothing.

He passed no one as he walked, but every once in a while he thought he heard footsteps. Probably a gardener. He wondered if even the gardeners at this place were attractive as the two women he'd met. He came to the place were the paths split, and from the map he could see that there were three different hot tubs. He took the one to the right, for no reason other than he felt more comfortable going in that direction. Centered in the midst of circling bushes, offering perfect protection from prying eyes, he found a wooden hot tub submerged into the ground. Glancing around, he made sure he was alone before disrobing and climbing down into the water was hot and making himself comfortable.

Placing his long braid on the deck, Duo laid his head back and thought this place was pretty close to perfect. His mind began to wander again, and he let go where it wanted because daydreaming was something he rarely indulged in since working for Charise. He loved his job, but it took all that he had to do it well, leaving little time, energy or inclination for daydreaming. His daydreams had once been the only way for him to escape his virulent teenage years. Living with Aunt Helen and her husband Hank had been good at first. He'd moved in with them when he was eleven, after his parents had been killed on their way home from the valley in a twenty car pile-up on Highway 5 that had been blamed on dense fog.

But when he turned twelve, things began to change, and for some reason he couldn't remember why. His aunt and uncle began to argue a lot, mostly behind their closed bedroom door. There were large blank spots in his memory at that point, but that wasn't surprising because he never did have a great long-term memory. Quatre thought his lack of memory meant he was hiding something, like the pain he felt at his parents' death and the arguing between his aunt and uncle. A week after his thirteenth birthday, Uncle Hank left the house, and he never heard from the man again. He didn't really recall the circumstances behind it, only that his aunt had been livid and refused to speak about what happened. Snippets of memory supplied the sound of his aunt crying in the room next to his own, which led him to believe Hank had cheated on his aunt and she had found out.

That had been the beginning of yet another dark time he'd had to get through, and he managed it the same way he'd dealt with the loss of his parents, by imagining himself as a transformer, a fire truck by day and a magnificent fighting robot anytime he was needed. His other favorite fantasy was being a genius space explorer, a kid among adults who often stopped to listen to his sage advice. That particular fantasy nearly flunked him out of his freshman year of high school. He'd had to train himself to only indulge in his daydreams when he was in his bed at night, using them as a tool to help him get to sleep.

Just after Hank left, his aunt changed into a different person, one with a new agenda. She lectured him, subtly at first, about how wrong the homosexual lifestyle was, that it was perverted. " If God had meant for men to have sex together, he'd have made a cleaner orifice than one designed for defecating," was something she'd said at least once a week. At first he was confused about her reasoning, and he wondered if his not wanting to cut his hair had led her to believe he was gay. Living most of his days in a fantasy world, as a coping mechanism from the loss of his parents, he really hadn't thought about his sexual orientation. But by the time he hit fourteen, he realized he was attracted to other boys more than he was to girls. His aunt must have somehow sensed that about him, he thought in retrospect, for she stepped up in her efforts to convince him of the wrongness of being gay. Whether she intentionally meant to emotionally sabotage him from having an intimate relationship with another man or was merely trying to make him into a heterosexual with her "preaching", he honestly didn't know. Either way, she'd succeeded in the first and not the later.

Oh to be like Laredo, he thought wistfully, or at least as uninhibited as the character he'd conjured up would be. He imagined himself in the role of a famous and pampered male prostitute in a western setting. It wasn't that he envied the job of a prostitute, no not at all, but it sure provided a host of interesting fantasies. The cowboy he spied sitting on the fence as he'd approached the estate earlier came to mind as a perfect specimen for his imagination. What a man, he thought with longing. Closing his eyes, he imagined that cowboy moseying up to The House On the Hill and pausing at the front door to wipe the dust accumulated from the trail off his boots and hat before he entered. He'd saunter up to the counter and ask if it was true that a long-haired man from San Francisco had been brought into the house its newest employee. After hearing the extravagant cost spending time with such a rare specimen, the cowboy would pause a moment before reaching into his tight jeans to grab a fist full of cash, plenty enough for the entire night. Placing it on the counter, he smiled slowly asked for the "Do Not Disturb" sign.

"Your gun," a girl looking just like Jillian would demand of him, and with reluctance, the cowboy would undo the belt of his holster and then hand it and his gun over to the girl with a warning not to let anyone touch it.

"Mind if I join you?" The deep voice fit right into his plot, imagining himself bathing in one of the upper elegant rooms, in an old fashion bathing tub filled with bubbles that hid what lay beneath the water.

"Suit yourself," Loredo answered with a lazy drawl and a crooked smile.

The water surrounding him rose against his skin as the cowboy entered the hot tub. "You're new here, aren't you?"

"Just arrived from ‘frisco," he answered in a lazy drawl, belying the racing of his heart.

"What's your name?"

Duo couldn't help but smile as he replied, "Laredo." What a cool name, he thought to himself.

"As in Laredo, Texas?"

"That's right."

There was a moment's pause, and Duo could imagine that the cowboy was staring at him, trying to see what lay beneath all the bubbling water. His imagination was so good that he could almost feel the man's breath against his neck as he heard the voice, now thick with lust whisper, "Beautiful."

He about jumped out of his skin when he felt warm, wet lips fix themselves onto his own. "What the hell?" he shouted, jumping back. He blinked, shocked speechless at finding the man of his daydreams, the cowboy who had been sitting on the fence earlier, looking at him as if he'd lost his mind. Oh God, maybe he had.

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