Jack looked up and the rain poured off his brow, drowning his vision. He tried to get up but strong thick hands held him down. He pushed at the thug but the broken glass bottle was shoved deeper into his side and an elbow came down on his nose.
There was a hit; the man stabbing Jack was thrown backwards and the other thugs left him to defend themselves. There were shouts and grunts, bodies hitting the pavement.
Jack dropped and his head hit the wet sidewalk. Warm blood began to drip down his face and into his mouth. He heard Kid Blink, Racetrack, Mush and the others, their angry voices echoing all around the alleyway and the street.
"Jack," Mush said quickly as he dropped to his knees next to his friend. "Oh God… Jack, c'mon, can ya hear me?"
"My ears work fine, quit yellin'." Jack tried to sit up but the pain went through him, his breath catching. Something was inside him, sharp as a blade. Mush moved closer and Jack gripped his shoulder.
"We gotta get ya to a doctor, Jack," Mush said desperately, his voice cracking.
Jack could hear the panic in Mush's voice. He didn't like it.
"No," Jack said firmly as he blinked several times, Mush's bronzed face coming into focus, worry in his dark eyes. Racetrack was standing behind Mush, keeping lookout, and Kid Blink was across the street with the other older boys, yelling something Jack couldn't hear.
"No docs," Jack said, his eyes deadly. He saw David running towards them from the other side of the street. His lip was busted.
"Jack, you're bleeding on tha street," Race said impatiently. "It ain't ideal but there's no otha choice, Cowboy."
"Racetrack's right, Jack," said David, is chest heaving as he looked across the street anxiously. "You could get the wound infected or worse-"
"So take me somewhere else," Jack yelled in frustration; his pain was getting worse. "Damn it... Take me ta Talia's place."
Mush became more desperate when he heard bull whistles. Desperate to get Jack off the street, Mush took Jack's arm, put it around his neck and ignored Jack's grunts as he pulled him up. "Kid, get over here!"
Kid Blink ran over and helped to lift Jack, his leather eye patch dripping with water. They cut across the street, the rain pouring over them, and went into the alleyway, carrying their friend as quickly as they could.
"Come 'ere, sweetheart. Warm these cold bones of mine."
Talia winced internally as the drunken fool tightened his hands around her, his hot sticky breath washing over her face. He was practically laying on top of her on the worn chaise lounge; he had taken her hair down and it was the only thing separating his eyes from her half exposed breasts, her blouse falling over the top of her faded mauve corset.
He was twice her size, pinning her down, and his hand traveled up her long legs at a painfully slow pace. She closed her eyes and repeated to herself the reasons why she needed this scumbag's money…
She could hear the other girls down the hall, laughing and flirting, the smell of cigarettes and cigar floating up from the parlor. At least they were having fun. They were always having fun. They actually enjoyed this. And Talia did too. At least, that's what she made her customers believe.
She only did it for one reason, the same reason every woman in the building did it. Even though she detested every man that walked through her door, she turned out to be the best girl in the whole brothel: she was more "woman" than the others, more curves. The others were half starved while men paid her enough to feed three people.
She took care of herself and men saw it: she had long dark brown hair, clean creamy skin and though her teeth were not the whitest, they were clean. The men always remembered her lips, full and the color of roses, and cold blue eyes lined in thick black lashes. She was an authentic Russian beauty. Some women had fake accents, to attract more customers, but hers was husky and unmistakably real.
She was known as "the goddess" and she was only nineteen. As a result, she was always booked. But she was beginning to feel burned out. And fast.
She was beginning to feel old.
"Come on, sweetheart…" his hand found her right breast.
She was tilting her head back, rolling her eyes back in disgust, when she heard him.
Her icy blue eyes shot open and she looked across her bedroom to the window.
She instantly recognized the voice, a thick New Yorker accent, and she quickly ran from the couch to the window, her customer falling face first into the pillow she had been leaning against.
"Hey!" the fat sailor complained. "I'm not through with you."
"The ladies down the hall will be more than happy to serve you," she said harshly, her thick Russian accent dripping with venom: she wanted this man to leave fifteen minutes ago when she'd first seen him downstairs. She looked out the window through the pouring rain, the streets glossy and dark. After a moment of searching, she saw them, all crowded around the fire escape below.
She heard the sailor approach her, "I said I'm not finished..."
She felt his hand curving around her waist, then down her hip. "Not even close," he purred.
She turned to look him in the eye and she saw the excitement in his ugly face. He leaned in closer but she stepped around him and strode to the other side of the room.
She threw open her bedroom door, the laughter and music from down stairs entering the room, and she crossed her arms, waiting. His dark creepy eyes drank in the image of her, standing in nothing but her lingerie and a loose satin robe, her breasts heaving, a dark beauty. But something in her cold icy eyes told him not to cross her.
He snarled, "I was going to pay you good money…I'll make it worth your night. Just one night with me…"
"Keep it for the girl next door," she said between clenched teeth.
He huffed and mumbled to himself as he walked through the door, zipping his pants.
She slammed it shut, locked it, and went back to the window, throwing back the long dark curtains. Rain water poured onto the floor.
She peered through the downpour, rain dripping through her long dark hair and down her arms and chest. She shivered from the icy trails the rain left on her warm skin. She saw through the bars of the fire escape the cluster of boys, all looking up at her window. She saw Kid Blink, supporting an ill-looking Jack Kelly.
She motioned them up and they began clambering up the rickety iron stairs. She stepped back and waited for them to climb through the window one by one. Two boys stayed on the landing, Pie Eater and Snotty, and three others down on the street, to keep watch.
Mush grinned at her and nodded as he jumped onto her wooden floor. His wet shirt clung to his broad chest and arms. "How's it goin', Talia?"
"This better be good, Mush. I just told my money to beat it."
He smiled at the sound of her accent; the guys usually tried to imitate her, much to her annoyance and secret pleasure. She had lived in America for ten years, since she was nine, and from listening to the girls and then the newsies, she had learned english...Just not "correct" english.
"It's kinda important," Mush said as he turned to pull Jack through the window.
Jack fought hard with the energy he had left to make it through the window by himself. His body was soaked, like the other boys, and his clothes were stained with blood. His light brown hair was slicked back and there was dried blood beneath his nose. His dark eyes were shadowed by his heavy brow, making him appear very angry, and his lower lip was busted.
"Looking good, Cowboy," she said with a smirk, her eyes glinting.
"Will you help 'im?" Mush asked, his eyes glinting with a hint of desperation.
Talia looked at Jack's face for a moment, temporarily forgetting Mush's question.
"Ah!" Jack shouted as Kid Blink came in behind him, almost causing him to fall. Mush caught him.
"Damn it!" Jack said, his face tightening as he winced.
"Sorry, Jack," Kid Blink said, climbing through and shutting the window after Racetrack and David.
Kid Blink shook the rain from his sandy blonde hair. "Hey, Talia."
"Hey, Kid. Long time no see, David," Talia said with a broad smile, rolling his name off her foreign tongue.
David smiled at her and nodded, blushing. "Hey Talia." His voice cracked and he cleared his throat.
Talia laughed; she loved making David feel uncomfortable. He was so sweet and naive.
The boys quickly filled up her small flat. It was only one room that served for her bedroom and seating room with a small galley kitchen and a bathroom next to it. The floors were old and worn and the roof leaked; her floor was scattered with bowls and pots, slowly filling with rain water.
Jack suddenly went pale and Kid Blink looked down at his face.
"Jack? Ya alright?"
"Let's lay him down," David said, taking Jack's other side.
"Here, on the bed," Talia said as she went to clear the clothes and sheets from her unkempt sheets.
The boys followed her, dragging a cursing Jack. She helped to lay him on her wrought iron bed, the sheets smelling of cologne and the pillows strewn across the floor. She stacked two pillows behind Jack as he cursed and grunted. His tall body made her bed look like a match box; though he was not as muscular as Mush, he was still very masculine in his build and features.
Jack looked up at Talia as she arranged his body and she met his eyes. Then he noticed what she was wearing.
"Sorry ta interrupt," he said dryly, all pain vanishing from his face.
She stood up straight and went back to the window, pulling her robe tighter.
"There will be other opportunities." She said with a sigh.
He looked away from her and irritation appeared in his eyes, for a number of reasons.
"I hope you didn't bring any…unwanted friends with you…" she said as she peered out the window.
The boys knew she meant the bulls; the whole brothel would be arrested if the police found them…or would gain more business depending on which ones showed up.
"So, what happened?" she asked, her breath fogging the window.
"We were ambushed," Kid Blink said.
Racetrack, David, and Mush were warming their hands and helping themselves to the towels in Talia's bathroom to wash the blood off their faces and lips. Kid Blink, rubbing his forehead, was watching Jack. Remorse filled his good eye.
"He was stabbed with a broken bottle," Kid Blink said angrily. "I couldn't get to him."
Talia looked back to the boys and then to Jack's bloody body on the bed, her eyes wide.
"Glass?" she asked. She went back to the bed. "Did it break inside you?" she asked in a rush.
"S'matta?" he asked heatedly, seeing the urgency in her eyes. He winced as Talia climbed onto the bed, sitting next to him.
She began unbuttoning his blood stained shirt but Jack's hand restrained her.
"Don' do that," he said stiffly.
"You want to bleed to death?" she asked impatiently.
He took in her expression and then let her hand go, watching her fingers work at the buttons on his chest.
"Mush, get some cloths from my bathroom and the whiskey bottle behind the sink."
"A'right," said Racetrack with a smirk as he clapped and rubbed his hands together. "I knew we made the right decision comin' 'ere."
The boys laughed and eyed each other sneakily.
Talia smiled coyly at them, "I worked hard for that stuff. It's the only alcohol I have so if you want a sip, empty your pockets."
Race took out a dime and slammed it on the table next to the couch.
She rolled her eyes, turning back to Jack. "Glasses are in the kitchen."
Race quickly took the bottle from Mush's hand and passed the glasses around.
Talia took off her robe, the sleeves getting in the way of her hands.
The boys got quiet when she disrobed. They were good friends with Talia; after two years she had almost become one of them. They treated her like one of their own, but she sure wasn't a newsboy and they still had eyes: they'd be lying if they said they'd never looked at her.
But around Jack, they didn't mention it. He got tense when the guys talked about her... just by saying her name. He was always strange around girls, but especially Talia, and the boys could never quite guess what he was thinking. But they knew what he was thinking whenever she was with another man.
She pulled the straps of her lace undershirt up her shoulders, covering herself more, and looked at Jack's wound. She could see the glass in the skin, shinning out of the gash cutting across his left side.
"You need a doctor, Jack," she said quickly, knowing he would argue.
"No docs," Jack said impatiently. He winced.
"Get my sewing kit," she shouted angrily back to the bathroom. She looked at the others who were staring at her. She saw the worry in their eyes as their friend and leader lay wounded on the bed, the color fading quickly from his face.
She sighed and watched Mush as he put the supplies on the bed and sat next to her. Kid Blink and the others got closer to look at Jack's side and Race began pouring them shots.
Jack's dark eyes met Talia's, "don' make it worse."
Talia ignored him and without hesitation began tugging at the wound with her fingers, making it wider. Jack cursed like the sailors down stairs, his shouts booming in her ears, and his lean body tensed on the bed. Talia's fingers slipped on Jack's blood.
"Gah… DAMN IT!" Jack yelled. "Whatta ya doin'?!"
"I have to get the glass out. If you want my help, you'll stop yelling and shut up."
"Jus' watch tha fingas," Jack hissed.
Talia gave another tug. Jack's frame went ridged.
"Let me do the talking," Talia whispered menacingly to him.
Jack huffed and closed his eyes tightly. The boys couldn't help but smirk and laugh a little. Talia was used to dealing with cranky old sailors and she treated Jack no differently.
Talia took the whiskey bottle and tipped it into the cloth in her hands. Then she tipped the bottle into her mouth and handed it to Mush who tipped it into Jack's.
Jack swallowed the whiskey and Race came around to put his cigar, lengthwise, in Jack's mouth. Jack clenched his teeth on the tightly rolled tobacco and waited for Talia.
She pressed the cloth to Jack's side. He hissed and arched his back. It wasn't much but it was the only thing she had to clean the wound. After wiping most of the blood away, she dug her fingers into his side and latched onto the biggest piece of glass.
Jack's hands were tight vices on the bed sheets and he cursed again as she pulled out the piece of glass, slick with blood and an inch wide.
The boys made uncomfortable noises and Kid Blink shook his head guiltily, "I'm sorry, Jack."
"Stop it," Jack said weakly, his voice muffled by the cigar. He glared at his friend. "Stop apologizin'."
"Those Delancy Brothas got anotha thing comin'," Race said darkly.
Talia's eyes glinted, recognizing the names. "The brothers that work for...what's his name...Weasel?"
The boys laughed at her pronunciation and Race nodded darkly, "Yeah, they're the ones."
She nodded, pulling out the last piece before fishing for the smaller shards. "They've been here before."
Jack shot her a dark look, the most violent expression clouding his features, but she distracted him when she pulled out a shard.
"Why'd they attack you?" she asked.
"The same reason they always attack us: for tha sport of it," Race said. "We only lost this time because we were outnumba'd."
Talia winced as she pricked her finger on a piece but still managed to pull it out.
There was a heavy fisted knock on the door.
Talia looked up, her eyes wide, and the boys watched her as she wiped her hands on the cloth in her lap. She looked at the newsies carefully, her eyes penetrating, "whatever happens, don't come to the door. If you're found in here, I'll be kicked out."
She climbed off the bed and went to the door. Though she told them to stay at the bed, Kid Blink and Race moved along the wall near the door, out of sight. These drunken sailors are known for their fists: they'd seen shiners on Talia before.
Jack slowly propped himself up on his elbow, watching the door. He despised being so useless.
Talia opened the door and saw the same sailor she had kicked out. She glared at him as he threw money at her feet, too drunk to stand up straight.
"Now…give me what I paid for, whore…" he said slowly, reaching towards her.
The boys tensed and Mush and David went to hold down Jack; the sailor's words made his blood boil.
Talia stepped back and looked past him down the hall, seeing the broad man who severed the girls as their "doorman."
"Lars!" she yelled.
She saw the thuggish man look down the hall to her door, his menacing face riddled with scars. He began stomping down the hallway when she swept the money into the room with her foot and slammed the door in the sailor's face. She gathered the money in her hands and threw it on the table next to the couch. She heard a loud thud from outside the door.
"Maybe tonight wasn't such a loss," she said humorlessly as she went back to sitting with her legs crossed on the bed, bent over Jack.
The boys stared at the money on the table and back to her. Whereas some girls were delicate and easy to offend, Talia had thick skin and had a bite worse than her bark. Though some days, after being with men, she seemed a little more tired and a little weaker. And the boys saw it; it was like watching a tiger walk around with a thorn in her side.
Though they completely understood why she did it...the sweaty wad of cash was the most money they'd seen in months.
"It's best you don't move tonight," Talia said as she wiped the wound clean again. "You can stay here. But you guys will have to beat it."
"We'll come back for him tomorrow night," David said with a smile, his eyes heavy with fatigue. "Thanks, Talia."
"Cowboy needs his rest," Race said with a smirk as he pulled out another chewed cigar from his pocket.
"I'm not leavin'," said Kid Blink.
"Me either," said Mush solemnly.
Talia looked at them with a disbelieving expression, "Do I look like an innkeeper?"
"C'mon, Talia," Mush pleaded. "I just want to make sure Jack's gonna be alright."
"Who needs a motha when I got you?" Jack said humorlessly, twirling the bitten cigar between his fingers. He hid his pain well.
"You two will have to bust for the couch," said Talia.
"Can we at least stay 'til the rain lightens up, please?" Race asked as he looked out the window. "This weatha ain't good for my health."
Talia began threading her needle and Jack's eyes narrowed at her.
"Wha's that for?"
"You can't go around with an open wound," Talia didn't wait for him to object and pricked his skin and pulled the thread through.
Jack stared at the ceiling casually but the muscles in his arms shook slightly. He crushed the cigar in his fist.
"Get his boots off," Talia said to Kid Blink.
The boys stayed for another two hours while the rain turned into mist. They passed around the whiskey bottle and gave Talia what coins they had and promised to buy her another bottle.
Jack finally calmed down enough to relax his muscles and Talia placed a warm cloth on his chest. Black stitched crosses stretched tightly across his side, the black thread a stark contrast against his pale skin.
Talia kept an ear open for any noises in the hallway and the boys begged her to let them look out the door to see the other girls. She just shook her head.
"What if I want you boys all to myself?" she said with a sly wink.
"We should set Davie up with a gal," Race said with raised eyebrows.
David's cheeks turned red.
The boys laughed and soon they picked themselves up from the couch and floor to say goodbye to Jack.
"Quit ya whinin'," Jack said grumpily. "You're not the ones layin' here."
"He's even more stubborn when he's wounded," Race said as he put on his cap. "See ya tomorra, Cowboy."
The boys went out the window and back down the fire escape, joining the others on the sidewalk, and in a tight group they ran across the street and disappeared down an alley.
Talia threw blankets and pillows to Mush and Kid Blink (Mush won in an arm wrestle for the couch) and she turned down the gas lamps as she went back to the bed.
Jack watched her from the corner of his eye as she took off her corset and chemise, her long hair the only curtain between his eyes and her torso. He could see the bottom curve of her breast until she pulled on a silk slip. He turned away, still angry and irritated.
She crawled under the sheets and lay next to him with her head propped up on her hand, her eyes locked on his face. He stared back, his eyes flat. She reached across him and took the wet wash cloth to place on his forehead. She saw him swallow and she took it for discomfort.
She smiled, "didn't think I was going to sleep on the floor and let you have the whole bed to yourself, did you?"
He didn't answer.
"Don't worry," she said softly as she dabbed his forehead. "I only bite those who pay me to."
He looked away from her, ignoring her last comment, "Thanks."
He motioned lazily to his side, "this."
"You would do the same for me."
"Would I?" he asked with a clever smile.
She smiled back, seeing the color returning to his cheeks.
"Get some sleep," she said, still smiling.
His smile disappeared and he watched her turn over, her long dark hair fanning across her pillow. Jack didn't get much sleep that night.
But once Jack drifted off to sleep, he dreamt about the day he and the boys met Talia.
It was last summer, a year ago, just after the strike and Jack's eighteenth birthday, when the boys had finished their routes and wanted to go swimming at the docks. It was the hottest day that summer.
The brothel girls were already there, swimming in their undergarments. They were like a picture from a fantasy, like the sirens from mythology. The sailors from the docks called out to them and waited, like hawks watching prey. Some of the girls left the water to go with the sailors who lead them to the alleyways between the old dock houses.
The Newsies stripped to their undershorts and flipped into the bay one by one, seeing if the girls would notice them. Except for Jack; he took a seat on one of the wooden crates on the dock and smoked a few as he watched his friends and the girls. Mush called out to him, telling him to get in the water, but he shook his head.
"Nah," he said, looking across the bay, watching the sun on the water. "I'm good."
Jack saw one of the girls look his way and he watched her from the corner of his eye. His brow furrowed as he looked at her.
She was curvier than the other girls, healthier, like the show girls he saw in magazines, and she had long tangled hair that floated around her on the water. She had a thin face with full cheeks and lips and Jack could hear her throaty laugh from where he sat. But he dropped his gaze and looked to the hazy city across the bay, listening to the girls laugh at his friends. His eyes kept flashing over to the dark haired girl.
Mush and Kid Blink managed to get a few of the girl's names, including the one Jack was staring at, and they were smiling and flirting shamelessly. They enjoyed talking to girls but Mush and Kid weren't the type to take advantage of a girl, even if she was offering. They merely wanted to talk with them.
Jack looked back to his friends and saw the dark haired girl swimming towards him. Through the water, he could see through the slip she was wearing, seeing her full bobbing breasts. Her light eyes met his and the expression she gave him, what looked to him like lust, sent chills up his arms. But he looked away.
"What's your name?" she asked. On hearing her Russian accent, her stunning facial features suddenly made sense.
He waited for a moment then stood and went to the edge of the dock, standing over her. Then he dropped to one knee and leaned down towards her, pulling the cigarette from his mouth.
"Jack," he said with a smile. He couldn't resist: he hardly ever pursued girls but when they showed interest he didn't mind showing a little back. "Jack Kelly. Yours?"
"Natalia," she purred. "But I'm known as Talia. You one of the news boys?"
"Yeah, I guess I am," he said as he ran a hand through his hair, one of his many personality ticks. "You one of the brothel girls?"
"I guess I am," she said, mocking him. "Why aren't you swimming?"
He shrugged, "decided not to taday."
She eyed him and then smiled, "Well, it's nice to meet you, Jack Kelly."
She reached up and pulled herself up onto the low dock, reaching her hand out to him. He shook her hand and glanced down at her body, her wet slip clinging to her curves…
Then she pulled on him and he fell of the dock and splashed into the water next to her.
The boys across the way laughed as Jack emerged, shaking the water from his hair as she laughed next to him.
He smiled at her after a moment and looked slightly embarrassed but laughed.
"'s nice to meet you too."
It had been hot that day at the docks and was even warmer in Jack's dream. The sun was so vibrant and sparkled on the water drops on Talia's arms and neck. Her smile was bright, like the sunshine, and her hair wrapped around her as they swam in the cool water… she seemed happier in his dream than she was when he was awake.
Then, it was only him and her, swimming high above New York. Then another man appeared and she left Jack's side, swimming away from him.
Jack woke up at noon to the sound of Kid Blink and Mush eating with Talia in the kitchen. When Talia saw Jack open his eyes, she went to his side and sat on the bed.
"How do you feel?"
He looked up at her face, shielding his eyes from the bright sunshine that flooded the room through the windows.
"I'm fine," he said as he propped himself up. He barely winced.
Talia smirked at him.
There was a firm knock on the door and everyone froze.
"You're a busy woman," Jack said disdainfully.
Talia motioned to Mush and Kid Blink and they took their toast and milk glasses into the bathroom and shut the door quietly. Talia took Jack's blanket and covered him to where only his bare chest showed. She swept her fingers through his light brown hair, making it messy.
"Don't say anything unless I need you to," she said.
He watched her go to the door and untie her robe, showing her clinging undergarments and perked breasts.
She opened the door and he saw her surprised expression when she saw who it was.
"Garrison," she said breathlessly.
Jack saw a man's arm wrap around her waist. He spied a familiar cuff link on his crisp white shirt.
"Good afternoon, gorgeous," said a silky voice. "Get dressed, I'm taking you out to lunch and dress shopping."
"I-" she was cut off when the young man kissed her. Jack saw her pull away from him, opening the door wider.
"I can't right now," she said, leaning against the door. "But perhaps later we could…"
The young man caught on, "oh, I see…you're... currently occupied."
"I won't be long," she purred.
"Don't worry, Natalia. I know full well I am not the only man in your life…Not yet, at least... But maybe just for this one time, you could make an exception-"
"She said beat it," Jack yelled, his frustration growing.
There was a pause.
"Right," said the young man, his voice soft. He leaned towards Talia and whispered, "Don't forget who I am, gorgeous...any girl would kill to be in your shoes...or in my bed."
Talia's eyes flashed but she pushed her flash of anger away and smiled coyly at him.
"I'll see you later," Talia said before closing the door. She pulled her robe around her and Mush and Kid Blink came out of the bathroom.
Kid Blink stared at the door, "Was that…?"
"Garrison Rockefeller," Jack confirmed with hatred in his eyes. "The most irritatin' guy on this side of tha bay, part of the Rockefellers. I didn' know he was one of your customas."
Talia looked at Jack darkly, "he would be one of yours too if you were in my position. Don't judge me, Jack."
"I just didn' know a Rockefeller had a type from the Eas' Side."
"Right. Because only rats come from the East Side," she said with narrowed eyes.
Jack shook his head, his gaze cast down to the floor, "'s not what I said."
"Then what exactly did you say, Cowboy?"
"He pay ya well?" Jack asked before he could stop himself.
"Jack," Mush said carefully, warning him.
Jack saw anger cloud Talia's cold eyes and he instantly regretted his question.
"As a matter of fact he does," she said unashamedly. "And he was here before you guys came into the picture. So if you want to stay in the picture, I'd watch what you ask."
Talia went on the other side of the bed and opened the drawer to her dresser. She sat on the bed and began pulling a stocking up her leg.
Jack gave Mush and Kid a look. They stared at Jack for a moment and then it dawned on them; he wanted them to beat it. They clambered to the window.
"We'll be back, Talia," Kid Blink said quickly before they stepped out onto the fire escape, leaving the window open. A light breeze drifted into the room and Jack could hear kids laughing in the streets.
Once Mush and Kid were down the fire escape, Jack sat up and leaned on his elbow, his upper body angled towards Talia. She was undressing again and he could see the curve of her back beneath her long hair.
"Look... I'm sorry, Talia," he said softly, his voice becoming rougher as his discomfort grew. He wasn't one for apologies.
So because he hardly ever said it, Talia knew he meant it.
"Sometimes, I can't control my mouth."
"It's okay, Cowboy," she looked at him over her bare shoulder and smiled. "A lot of men have that problem."
He stared at her blankly and watched the smile grow on her lips. He had a feeling she was talking about something else.
"Now lie back down and shut it."
He flopped back on the pillows and turned over, hiding his frustrated expression.