When her shift had ended that evening. She finished up and got the restaurant set up for tomorrow’s shift, then went into the saloon and sat down. She pulled the band off her hair and let it fall down her back.
The saloon was remodeled by Dick Haufmeiser, half owner of the saloon and restaurant. When entering the saloon from the restaurant, immediately to the right was the bartender area with a half rounded counter and stools. The rest of the floor were an opened area with tables and bar stools. The walls were plastered with pictures of beer advertisements. On the outer wall, elk, mule deer, and a ram horn sheep heads were mounted, and a full body of a mountain lion. In the one corner of the saloon, was another stone fireplace still in use. There was a wall mounted, modern jukebox next to the entrance to the bar, and the opposite of that were three slot machines. Over the bartending area was a fifty-inch flat screen television and two smaller televisions, one at the front of the saloon and one at the back.
“What can I get you to drink?” Cherry asked.
“Just a glass of Mountain Dew.” Nicole looked around and saw a few regulars at the bar.
Cherry brought her the coke. “Seems like business is finally picking up around here.”
“Yeah, it was rather busy for a Sunday afternoon at the restaurant.” Nicole agreed.
Cherry sat on the stool on the other side of the counter, across from Nicole.
Arthur and Roger were seated in the middle drinking beer when Arthur said to Cherry. “I’d like to play that Shake a Day.”
There were two sets of Shake a Day. On the little blackboard, it showed the amount of one hundred and seventy-five dollars for one Shake a Day, and two hundred and eighty-five for the other Shake a Day. Underneath that, it showed that it cost a dollar for three shakes. If the shaker roll three of a kind, they’d get a drink for a dollar, if the shaker got four of a kind, they’d get a free drink, and if the shaker got five of a kind, they’d win the pot minus ten percent to start the next round.
Cherry grabbed the cup and the dice and took them over to Arthur. He handed her a dollar, and the first roll, he got two of a kind sixes, he kept that back and rolled the dice again, and got nothing. He rolled the dice again and didn’t get anything. While Arthur was doing this, Roger went to the jukebox and selected a bunch of eighty’s hits. The first hit song came on, Simply Irresistible, by Robert Palmer. Cherry and Nicole both started doing the body sway and singing just as the women in the video did back in 1988 when the it came out.
“Heard the guys took off and went gold panning at the Winchester mine.” Nicole took a sip of her pop.
“Yeah, it was kind of nice having Randy out of my hair for the afternoon.” Though Randy was a good friend of Ronnie’s, Cherry was a bit older than Randy and had teenage children. They weren’t married, but they did have a hot romance going on. Randy had some medical problem with his eyes, and he also liked to smoke marijuana. He grew his own stash well hidden from view. Not that marijuana was illegal in Montana, but growing it is questionable. Nicole suspected that Ronnie also smoked marijuana, but she had never confronted him about it. It wasn’t her business what Debbie and Ronnie did.
Bill and Judy came into the bar, and went and sat at the opposite end.
“How did the party go?” Nicole asked.
“Fine. We had a blast. She literally dived into her birthday cake,” Judy said.
They ordered their beer. Arthur handed Bill and Judy his iPhone with a picture on it. “Have you ever seen something like this?”
Bill looked at the picture. “A wooden car? Never seen one. What is that, a Pontiac Fiero?”
“It looks like a Pontiac T-bird to me,” Arthur said.
Bill handed the iPhone back to Arthur, and he passed it along to Nicole and Cherry.
The picture was posted with the message that a state trooper from Nebraska pulled a wooden car over on the freeway.
“Boy, that looks like a lot of work,” Nicole commented. She handed the iPhone back to Arthur. Randy, Ronnie, and Tim walked into the saloon.
“Hey, sport. Did you work at the restaurant today?” Ronnie asked Nicole.
“Yeah, I did. Find any gold?”
“Just some flakes.”
Nicole could smell the mixture of marijuana smoke and alcohol reeking from all three of the guys.
They sat down at the center of the bar counter to Nicole and ordered a beer.
“Where’s Luke?” Nicole asked.
“He’s gone home to change his clothes,” Ronnie said, and all the guys started laughing.
“Okay, what did you do to him?” Cherry asked.
“Not a thing. His foot slipped out from under him, and he went sliding down the hill on his ass.” Randy said, and the guys laughed.
“Is he okay?” Nicole asked.
“He’s fine. He’s just got an ass full of sand and dirt.”
“Once he got to sliding down that hill, no one could stop him,” Randy said between bouts of laughter.
“It was like he was riding a toboggan, only he wasn’t on one.” Tim wheeled around in the stool and held his legs out and his hands in front of him doing an imitation of Luke riding a toboggan.
Nicole drifted her attention to Bill, who was talking about the deer that he saw that came to the creek near his house when the door to the saloon opened, and Marcus walked in. At first, Nicole did not look, but it got quiet in the room for a few seconds before Cherry asked, “Hi, what can I get you?”
“Scots and water, please.”
Nicole froze in her seat. She knew who it was without even having to look. She recognized the voice and could even smell his Woodland cologne. The scent drove her crazy. She dropped her gaze down to her glass.
“Hello, Nicole.” His smooth, velvety voice said quietly in her left ear.
“Hi.” She clipped. She didn’t want to talk to him. She didn’t want to be near him because everything about him drove her nuts. She had to repeatedly tell herself that he was married and had a houseful of kids.
“Family all settled in for the night?” She gave him a sidelong glance.
“They are on their way back to Amherst,” Marcus said.
“So they were only here for the weekend?”
“Yes. The boys have to go back to school tomorrow.”
“What grade is Nathan in?” Nicole asked and took a sip of her pop. Last night she had the delightful little tyke with her for the evening, and he fell asleep in her arms. She felt different. She felt protective of him and wrapped her arms around him. She didn’t intend to fall asleep. She wondered why his mother and Marcus didn’t come for him.
“He’s in first grade.”
“He’s a delightful little guy.”
“Yeah, he is a good boy,” Marcus agreed.
“Said he broke his arm falling down the stairs.”
“We tell the boys not to run in the house, but children forget and do it anyway.”
Needing to put some space between her and Marcus, Nicole got up and walked over to the slot machines. She slipped her money in the Poker Keno slot machine and spun the wheel. She stayed there for a little while, and when she got up to walk back to the bar, she noticed Marcus staring at her.
He grinned and asked, “Did you win anything?”
“I won forty dollars.” Nicole walked over to the bar counter and handed Cherry her ticket. Cherry went to the cash register and placed the ticket in a folder under the drawer. She pulled out the forty dollars and handed it to Nicole. Cool. Money to go towards buying a new tent for camping.
Luke came into the saloon, and everyone clapped and called cattails at him. No one knew if Luke was smiling because he was a naturally long dark red head, with a full orange colored facial beard and mustache. He had a baseball cap on backward.
“I see you survived your ordeal,” Cherry commented smiling.
“Yeah, hurt like a son-of-bitch though. I hit rocks and tree limbs all the way down.”
“Were you guys drunk or high on drugs?”
“Us? High on drugs? Naw.” Luke had a mischievous look on his face. One that told everyone that yeah, they been smoking a joint.
Soon, Elvira started up on the jukebox, and the guys asked Cherry to crank up the volume. Everyone except Marcus and Bill started singing along with the song. No one, though, could do any justice to the bass singer in the song. Marcus sat with his elbows on the counter, and his hands clasped together in front of his lips. No one could tell if he was smiling or not.
“So, you’re new here, are you visiting or moving in?” Cherry asked.
“I’m on a mission so I’m just here for a few days,” Marcus answered.
“What mission are you on?”
“A mission to find some native artifacts.” He looked at Nicole. “I’m hoping that Nicole will help me with this.”
“What’s the population of this town, anyway?”
“About two-fifty. Back in its heyday, the population was about two thousand.” Nicole took a sip of her pop.
“Do people still pan for gold around here?” Marcus asked, looking at the guys that had returned from the mine.
“Yeah, you can go just about anywhere around here and pan for gold, even in the Mason Creek.”
“Have you gone gold panning?”
“I’ve gone a few times. I did it a lot when my dad had Winchester mine.”
“Noticed Mason has a couple of radon mines too.”
“Yeah, we have two of them. The Happy Widow mine and Mason radon mine.”
“Hi, Nicole,” A voice said behind her, and she turned abruptly to see who it was. It was Susie Owens, one of the other waitresses that worked at the café.
“I was wondering, would you be able to trade a couple of nights next week with me? I have a school board meeting on Wednesday evening, and Thursday night is teacher’s conference.”
“I’m scheduled to work next weekend, did you want to take my place then?” Nicole asked.
“That would be great, thanks so much. I’ll let Darcey know tomorrow when I get in.” Susie pulled a strand of hair off her forehead and wrapped it around her ear.
Nicole used the interruption by Susie as her chance to make her escape. She grabbed her jacket and her purse and looked at Cherry and Susie. “I’ll see you all later.”
She walked out the door and headed back to her room. She didn’t want to risk getting into the discussion with him now about the cave and the arrows, and she didn’t want to lie to him either. She already lied to him once, and it weighed on her. She felt guilty as sin for not telling him that she remembered where the arrows were at. She was going to have to face him eventually and tell him. Hopefully, she can point the place out on one of the maps he said he got at BLM and send him on his way. The sooner he left, the sooner she can get back to normal.
Halfway through her walk, an SUV pulled up and parked in front of her, causing her to walk around the passenger side. Marcus rolled the window down. “Hop in, I’ll drive you back to the motel.”
She was tempted to say no, that she likes to walk, but it was dark out, and all she had in her purse was a can of pepper spray to ward off any wildlife.
“Okay.” She climbed into his SUV. She looked around. From what she could see, it was quite a fancy vehicle. It had black comfortable leather seats, he had a leather steering wheel cover that had fringes on it. The dashboard was lit up with all kinds of information on it. There were lights along the inside wall and floor of the vehicle that flashed different soft colors in accordance to the beat of the music he had playing softly. There was a Navigator in the middle of the dashboard under the inside rear view mirror.
Within a few minutes, Marcus pulled his SUV in front of Nicole’s room.
“Thanks, for the ride.” Nicole grabbed the door handle.
Marcus laid his hand on her left arm to stop her. “Is there something wrong? I feel as if I have upset you in some way.”
“No. Nothing’s wrong.” You’re married, that’s what’s wrong.
“Are you sure? What’s going on?”
Nicole was scrambling to gather her thoughts. “I remembered where the arrows are at.”
“Yeah, um, if you want, we can look at your maps tomorrow, and I’ll try to show you. I work in the mornings, so I could meet you out at the picnic table at noon.”
“Okay, that sounds good.” Marcus lifted his hand from her arm and touched her cheek. He leaned his body over the center of the SUV and kissed her gently on the lips. He pulled back so he was an inch or so from her and looked at her silhouette in the moonlight.
Nicole was stunned by the kiss. The feel of his warm lips and his warm breath on hers felt wonderfully heady. Her first kiss. It was everything they said it was in her romance books. She brought her hand up and touched his face. It felt smooth and silky, just as she imagined it would feel. He brought his hand up and encircled hers then kissed her again, this time, longer. She parted her lips slightly and kissed him back. She felt his tongue traced the softness of her lips and it sent shivers of desire racing through her. She had never experienced such pleasantness before. So this was what it was like to be kissed.
Suddenly, she remembered that he was married. Startled back to reality, she pulled abruptly away from him. She pulled her hand out of his and fumbled while feeling for the door handle.
“Are you okay?” Marcus asked, barely a whisper.
She found the door handle and yanked it opened and stumbled out. She hurriedly walked to her door and pushed it open and stepped inside her room. She slammed the door shut and leaned against it. Oh. My. God. I just kissed a married man, and it felt wonderful. How am I going to face him tomorrow?
* * * *
Marcus sat in his vehicle, stunned by her reaction. It was going nicely, and suddenly she pulled away. What happened? She looked frightened and had that deer in the headlight stare. He was enjoying the kiss. It actually felt quite sensual, something he hadn’t felt for a woman in a long time. Not since he first kissed his ex-wife, Rayanne, when he was in his twenties. Nicole was nothing like Rayanne. Nicole had an innocence demeanor about her. Maybe it’s been a while since someone had kissed her, maybe it’s been a while since she’d been with a man. She had a beauty that was far deeper than her looks. Hell, his son was really drawn to her. He wondered if she’d consider leaving here and coming to work as a nanny for his son. He’d pay her good, and she could go to college if she wanted and take up professional photography. She really did have an eye for taking pictures.
He backed his SUV out of her parking space and parked it in front of his room. He got out and went into his room. Tomorrow he would find out where the Sacred Arrows were at. He wondered if she realized that he was going to need her to take him to the location? She can show him on the map where it was at, but he was going to need her memories to lead him to the exact spot. He had a feeling he was going to have to make it worth her while to go.
Marcus rarely dreamed that he could ever remember. That night, he drifted off to sleep. He laid next to Nicole, her naked body was pressed hard against his. He ran his hand through her beautiful long hair, his lips were inches from hers. She had her arms around his neck and ran her fingers through his hair as if fascinated by the feel of the strands. He claimed her lips and crushed her to him. His lips left hers to nibble at her earlobe. He brought his hand around and outlined the circle of her breast. She hitched her breath at the touch. He left a trail of wetness from her neck to her shoulder, then slowly, he drifted down to her breasts, and his tongue explored the rosy peaks.
He pulled himself back to look at her lovely breasts, admiring them. The nipples were like beautiful, pink rosebuds. He drew his eyes up to hers and saw the passion in her eyes and the heat that stained her cheeks.
Suddenly, a dog barked. He bolted upright, climbed out of the bed and walked to the window. He could hear Sierra, who ran off in the distance, but in the moonlight, he couldn’t see her. Just as he was turning to go back to bed, he saw a shadow move. He looked and saw Nicole, in a nightgown, walking in the moonlight. The nightgown was sheer, and he could see the outline of her body. Was she sleepwalking? Should he go out there and guide her back to her room? He continued to watch her, unsure of what he should do. Sierra ran back to her, and Nicole bent to pet her. They turned around and walked back to her room.