"The beauty of a woman is not in the clothes she wears, the figure that she carries, or the way she combs her hair. The beauty of a woman must be seen from in her eyes, because that is the doorway to her heart, the place where love resides." - Time Tested Beauty Tips

"She died, tryin' to save me from this, and I wasn't gonna let it happen." Cassie sat in the chair just a little over a foot away. Her eyes shining with the lamp light in the room. They'd drawn the curtains to keep prying eyes out, hiding as he was from the Army, anyone catching sight of him would only speed things along and he wanted, no… he needed time.

He listened to her words, heard the way she described killing the soldier.

The soldier he'd enraged. The soldier that he'd beaten in a fight that had ranged over several blocks and a number of windows. She'd taken the brunt of the man's anger and hadn't planned on telling him.

She was going to suffer in silence, because if she had told him. She knew. She knew what he would have done. He would have killed Sergeant Liebrandt. He would have killed him and made it as painful as he could manage.

"He must really love you." He meant her brother Quinn, he meant the boy. Then, again his father never liked liars, but he couldn't put that kind of pressure on her. Especially now that she was going to jail.

She was going to jail as soon as folks find out that she was the one that put an end to the man… to the man that he should have killed.

He didn't know what to say; couldn't make any kind of sound come out of his throat. It was his fault.

Liebrandt was the worst kind of man, eager to prove himself at every turn. Prove himself and take what he wanted. That kind of man needed to put down into their place, not given a gun and stripes on his sleeve.

Noah lifted her hand to his mouth and brushed his lips over her knuckles, trying to imagine the hands that clung to him with such gentle yearning could have killed a man.

He looked into her eyes and knew what he'd find. Strength. She was a woman to behold. Raised her brother on her own, kept the young man happy and healthy and still full of questions and a curious spirit. She was so strong and yet, when he looked at her he was mesmerized by the soft light in her eyes, the way she looked at him as though he were something more than he was… something good and worthy.

The ache in his leg drew him out of his reverie, the sudden twitch and spasm of damaged muscle called his attention and cleared his mind.

He'd said it before. He didn't know much about Cassie Ellis, but he knew enough. The woman was good… she was strong… and had a love inside of her that made her nearly too beautiful to look at… too beautiful to touch… not when he was about to get himself killed. Noah stood up from the table and gave her a smile that would never reach his eyes. "You stay here, Cassie. You stay here and take care of Quinn-"

"But, I … the Army-"

"You don't have to worry about them no more. Not any more."

He didn't turn around to say goodbye. He didn't dare.

She'd know sooner or later what he'd done. She'd know and somehow that made it alright.

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