Polly turned the key in the lock of the Saloon's front door and stepped into Teaspoon's embrace. "Really, Sugar lips, you don't have to walk me home every night."

"Oh, I don't, do I?" He gave her a lecherous look and leaned closer to whisper in her ear. "Then how, pray tell, am I ever going to get a few moments to spend sparkin' with my best girl?"

"Best girl?" She couldn't help the little giggle that escaped her lips. "Just how many do you have? Should I be worried?"

He steered her down the walk toward her house. "Hmmm… lessee... there's Rachel…she makes the best biscuits."

"I make pretty good biscuits… at least Cody says so when he's 'testing' them out for me."

"Right." Teaspoon agreed readily. "Then, there's Louise, my little spitfire… very nearly my daughter if the truth be told."

"Oh," Polly leaned into his shoulder, enjoying the feel of his strong arm around her body, "well, thank goodness you don't see me as another daughter…right?"

He paused for a moment as the meaning of her words sunk into his brain. "Goodness, no, woman! Bite your tongue."

She touched her hand to his chest and gently gave him a pet, as if she was trying to soothe the anxious beast. "Well, I wasn't the one to start this conversation…"

"Oh but you did, sweetheart. You wanted to know what other women were in my life."

She looked away, a little ashamed for even asking the question. "It was a joke... nothing more."

He stopped within site of her front door and set his fingers beneath her chin, gently nudging a fraction of an inch at a time until her gaze met his in the soft moon light. "I don't think you were jokin' when you asked it, and I'm not jokin' now, darlin'."


"Then really, if you want to know… I'll tell you."

"I've got a dozen women in this town that I care for… some more than others." He fought to keep her gaze on his face. Somewhere deep down inside he knew this wasn't just about women… it was about Polly worried that he didn't see her as the same woman, before… before the attack. He wasn't going to let this go… not any longer. He couldn't and more to the point, she couldn't either. "But if you were to ask me who it was that made my lips smile with just a thought, made my heart run like a wild horse in my chest… and which woman made my life truly joyous for each and every minute of everyday. That's you Polly-girl. Polly Hunter."

*** ***

She smiled and managed to turn away, rifling through her purse until her hand closed around her key. She stopped just outside of her front door and turned back around. After all, her father didn't raise a coward. Not hardly.

Teaspoon was still there, waiting patiently. He wasn't going to rush her. Her father didn't teach him to push a woman. Not hardly.

She gathered her thoughts and arranged them in her head. This was not one of the moments when you wanted to just open your mouth and let your thoughts spill out. That could get messy… really messy.

"I bet you're wondering why I still use that name."

He gave her one of his heartbreaking smiles and took a small step forward into the light the evening sky offered him. "I have my hopes, but I'd rather hear it from you, Polly."

'Hopes'… the word both weighed on her shoulders and lifted her spirits at the same time. "My daddy had the same question in his head for months, but it wasn't until I was ready to talk about it that he sat still long enough to listen to me. I sat him down at the kitchen table, shoved a cup of coffee in his hands and told him. "I know what the paper says, Daddy. It says he's not mine any longer and that I'm… I'm not his, but that don't mean everything goes back to the way it was before. I still love him, Daddy. That's not going to change and I'm going to keep his name."

She smiled a gentle almost wistful curve of her lips. "He never argued with me. He knew that I was just as stubborn as he was."

"I'd say he knew you were more than that, honey. You can be a force of nature when you put your mind to it."

With a quick turn of her wrist the door to her house swung open. "So you're saying I can get what I want?"

He gave a quick nod. "Just like Mother Nature herself… when you get that look in your eye and that tilt to your chin. There ain't no man that could say no to you."

"Really, now?" She pursed her lips and gave him a knowing smile. "Then I have something to say to you, Al Hunter."

He gave a little hop step and moved closer to her front door, a near Cheshire grin bending his lips. "Yes, Polly Hunter?"

"Get in here."

He gave a jaunty little bow and watched her intently as he walked up to her side. "Yes ma'am." Teaspoon slid his arm around her, setting his hand on her waist to pull her tight against his side. "We've got some talkin' to do… it's been awhile."

She stopped just inside the door and put her finger over his lips. "You're right, it's been awhile, but I don't want to talk. Come here."

He stepped in right after her.

She closed the door.

And locked it.

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