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  • Maz

Updated: May 24, 2019

The last Cal bday short story!

Just as a reminder, if you didn't read the other two shorts before this one, I would recommend doing so.

Fair warning -- this contains sexy times and poker games. >:)



Cal couldn’t remember the last time he truly celebrated his birthday.

For years, the day had come and gone without any type of fanfair, usually falling to the wayside of whatever responsibilities he had at the time. Mack usually remembered, but the extent of their celebration was some whiskey and dinner. He’d never had the entire town come to wish him well and bring him gifts before.

He also never had Jesse until a year ago.

Jesse lit the lanterns inside the station as they went inside, moving with the casual grace of a relaxed cat Cal had grown so fond of. The former bandit turned deputy was domesticated now, finding his home curled up with Cal each night. Even after all they’d been through, it still stunned Cal to realize the gorgeous man with eyes like fine honey whiskey was all his.

“What are we doing at the station?” Cal’s curiosity got the better of him, shaking him lose from his thoughts. Jesse moved some paperwork and old coffee cups off the side table. The chairs were pulled around to face each other across the small, simple tabletop and Jesse nodded to the one closest to Cal.

“Have a seat, sheriff.” The grin on his face made Cal’s skin electric. He knew that grin all too well, and it usually meant the type of mischief that got Jesse into trouble and made Cal’s toes curl. The chair whined a bit as he sat, and Cal eyed his partner as the man pulled out a pack of playing cards.

“What’s this now?” Cal cocked an eyebrow as Jesse slid the cards free of their container and began shuffling them. “New deck?”

“That’s right.” The way he flipped the cards together with practice ease spoke volumes, not just in his comfortable familiarity to cards but also how dexterous his fingers were. Cal was quite a fan of the latter.

Jesse began dealing the cards in silence, his grin never fading. “Playing hold’em rules tonight.”

“What are the stakes?” Cal lifted his cards and eyed them. Not bad, but he sure as hell wasn’t going to broadcast that information.

The only answer Cal got was a wink before the subject was changed. “It was about this time last year that we met, wasn’t it?”

“You rode in a day after my birthday.”

“Well, happy birthday to you, then.” Jesse placed the flop cards down onto the table. “Guessing you weren’t recovering from a night of partying while you chased me down, huh?”

“Hardly.” Cal waited until Jesse placed the river card down before he placed his two of a kind down. Jesse clicked his tongue and proudly displayed his flush.

The cocky bastard grinned like a hungry predator and leaned on his elbows. “Strip.”


“Aw, c’mon, sheriff.” He tsked with a slow head shake. “You ain’t never played strip poker before?”

Cal coughed a laugh and glanced at their surroundings. “We’re at the station, Jesse.”

“Sure are.” Jesse lifted his chin. “Strip.”

The logical, rational, sheriff side of Cal told him to collect his bandit and go home. But the side of Cal that desperately wanted to beat Jesse and get him naked was much, much louder. Still, he had to let loose a long, uncomfortable sigh through his nose.

“What if someone comes in and sees us?”

That goddamn grin widened as his head tilted down. The shadow of his hat covered his eyes in a dark shadow that gave him an almost dangerous allure.

“Didn’t realize Centaurs’ bellies favored the color yellow.” He snickered, licking his lips slowly as he leaned back in his seat to watch Cal brood. “Now, strip.”

Cal mirrored his posture, locking eyes with him and setting his jaw as he kicked off his boots and nothing more. “My turn to deal, Woodlock.”

Jesse ran his teeth over his bottom lip and slid the deck across the table. “You have played before. Interesting.”

“Shut up.” Cal made quick work of shuffling and dealing. “I’m not the one who’s ass is going to be bare at the end of this.”

“Promises, promises.” Jesse wasn’t even looking at his cards, his delicious eyes openly raking over Cal’s form. Each pass was lighting fires under Cal’s skin, and hell if he didn’t want to just strip them both down right then. He knew his devious lover well enough to know that was Jesse’s play. The slick bastard was trying to get him too hot and bothered to play worth a shit and lose due to drowning lust.

He wasn’t wrong. It was a good plan. Cal wanted to bend him over the table just from watching him bite at his lip.

Cal’s voice was rougher than he meant it to be, his throat tight as he reeled in his control. “You gonna play or eye-fuck me all night?”

“It won’t be just my eyes, Kleblor.”

“We’ll see.” Cal placed the river card down. “Show your hand.”

Jesse placed his hand down with bravato. “Three of a kind.”

“Straight.” Cal tossed his cards down with a smirk. “Or as Mack calls it, ‘Never Once’.”

“Mack dances the line of genius daily.” Jesse snickered.

“I believe you owe me a piece of clothing, Woodlock.” He sure as hell wasn’t going to let the smug bandit get out of paying his debt.

Jesse pushed to his feet and made a show of unbuckling his belt slowly, never breaking eye contact as he did. Thankfully, Cal had already put his cards down, or he would have crushed them in his hands while keeping his urges under control.

“Let’s up the stakes.” Jesse slipped back into his chair, tossing his belt over the back of it.

Cal slid the cards over to him and cocked a brow. Another wicked grin split the bandit’s handsome face as he began shuffling.

“When I win, you take off two pieces.”

Cal leaned his arm on the table, lowering his head to shadow his gaze. “When I win, you take off three.”

A burst of laughter barked from Jesse as he tilted his head back. “You’re taking away all the foreplay, Cal! You gotta work for it.”

“Deal the cards and get ready to strip.” Cal leaned back in his chair, eyeing the man like he was challenging him to make a run for it. Never one to back down from a good fight, Jesse met his gaze and dealt the cards.

“Play good, sheriff. I want some skin.”

Gods, just a couple hands in and Cal was already straining against his pants. The smoldering, whiskey colored gaze devouring him over the cards made every inch of him burn. Each second that ticked by drove Cal’s heartrate up as he forced his attention to the cards on the table. When Jesse beat him easily with a a flush, Cal snarled.

Jesse clicked his tongue and looked him up and down. “Pay up.”

Reaching back behind himself, Cal tugged his shirt over his head and tossed it aside. Jesse’s eyes felt like fingertips grazing his skin, the bandit’s tongue slowly licking his bottom lip as Cal slipped his belt off.

“One more play and you’re all mine.” Jesse slid the deck to him, leaning on his elbows. “Now, how do I want you? Fucking you up against the bars? Or maybe toss you onto that cot in there so you can ride me properly?”

“You’re getting bent over this table, Woodlock,” Cal promised in a low tone. “Keep up the lip and I’ll tie your hands behind your back.”

Jesse ran his bottom teeth over his lower lip again, a cocky smirk on his face as Cal dealt the cards. “When you had me here the first time, is that what you wanted to do to me?”

“When I had you here the first time, I didn’t know if I wanted to punch you or fuck you. You drove me insane with how much I wanted you, but you were bad news.” Cal gathered his cards. “You still are.”

“I’m not the one promising to tie a man up and fuck him over a table, sheriff.” He presented their surroundings with his free hand, the other holding his cards. “At the station, no less. How scandalous.”

“Keep it up.”

“Darlin’, it’s up.” He winked. “I knew I could get you to break eventually. You’re all muscle and bravato when you’re playing the badge, but deep’re as carnal and sinful as the bandit behind bars.” Jesse dropped his tone and whispered breathy and laced with heat. “And when I got you, I wanted you for keeps.”

Cal’s heart thundered, his pulse humming with beating desire. After a moment to breathe, he managed a tight, “Show your hand.”

Jesse placed his Not Once down with a grin.

Cal threw his four of a kind across the table and pushed to his feet. “Strip. Now.”

“Pushy, pushy.” Jesse kicked his boots off and stood, daring Cal’s temptation as he stepped into his space to undress. The cocky bastard made sure to drag the process out as long as he could, grinning that devious smirk that Cal was painfully addicted to. Each article of clothing took years to remove, but once he was stepping free of his pants, there was no hiding how eager the former bandit was for the contact.

The blacks of his eyes were blown wide as Cal caught the wrist aiming to remove his hat.

“Keep that on,” Cal ground out before spinning Jesse around and forcing his chest down onto the table. Snagging the belt on the back of Jesse’s chair, Cal wrapped the man’s wrists behind his back and held him in place. Jesse grinned over his shoulder at him.

“Might wanna grab that box, sheriff.”

“Don’t move.” Cal leaned over him, speaking through his teeth as he squeezed the belt around Jesse’s wrists.

“Yes, sir.”

Cal stepped away, grabbing a bottle from Scarlet’s gift box before stepping back behind his bent over prize. The liquid inside was velvet soft against his fingertips and smelled like roses, warming against his skin as he rubbed his fingers together. He pulled Jesse down the table by his hip, pushing his ankles apart to get access to what he wanted.

Jesse hissed and tensed as Cal pushed two slick fingers inside, pressing down on the belt strap as he did.

“Don’t tease that you’re going to take me hard if you’re not planning on delivering, sheriff,” Jesse huffed, wiggling his hips against Cal’s fingers. “I ain’t here to play nice.”

“I believe you’re my prisoner, Woodlock.” Cal twisted his fingers slowly, drawing out the sensation. “So you don’t get to set the pace.”

Jesse gave a low chuckle. “How you figure?”

“I’m not the one tied up and bent over.” He pulled his fingers out slowly, driving them back in and twisting. Jesse arched his back against Cal’s grip.

“That don’t mean I can’t get you to give me what I want.” He turned his gaze to him and licked his lips. “Fuck me, Cal.”

The man was like a goddamn demon with how well he knew Cal’s buttons. A jab of lust spiked through him so viciously, it made his calculated plan to tease Jesse senseless grind to a halt.

“That won’t work.” It was a bluff. A bad bluff that Cal was already slipping from. Hooded, whiskey eyes burned into him as he drew his eyebrows together, the look of desperate desire painted all over his flushed face.

“Please, Cal. Fuck me. Please.” His voice was strained, breathy and snapped Cal’s fragile willpower in an instant.

Cal pulled his fingers out, adoring the whine of loss as he got to work freeing his aching cock from his restrictive pants. Jesse’s breath was crashing into the wooden table as Cal slicked himself with the rose scented, warming fluid from the bottle. The sensation was tingling and alluring, but it was nothing compared to Jesse’s body.

Jesse sobbed a gleeful grunt of pleasure as Cal pushed all the way inside with one thrust. Being buried inside Jesse Woodlock was the closest thing Cal got to being religious, and by the Gods if he wasn’t devoted to how perfectly they fit together.

Taking a hold of the belt strap, Cal held Jesse down against the table with one hand while the other gripped his hip tight. The snap of his hips made Jesse grunt through his teeth, his arms flexing against Cal’s hold. The bandit wanted to play rough, Cal could deliver.

Each thrust made Jesse moan or yelp in delight, his toned back and arms flexing and arching under Cal’s grip. The table jostled and creaked as they pushed against it, mixing with the debaucherous sounds of sex that bounced off the walls of the small building. At any point, someone could walk in and see the sheriff shamelessly fucking his deputy over the table, playing cards tossed about and a box of sex tools at his feet.

He should have been horrified by it, but instead, Cal gripped Jesse’s hip and fucked him harder.

It was thrilling. It was inappropriate and ripe with scandal. Jesse Woodlock was a bad goddamn influence.

And he was all Cal’s.

When Cal let go of Jesse’s hip, he knew there would be bruises here his fingers had been biting into his skin. He slid his hand under the bandit’s flexing hips to find his ignored, burning cock aching for attention.

Jesse mumbled a string of curses to various Gods as Cal wrapped his hand around him, stroking him as he continued to fuck him against the table. The thick, dripping cock slicking Cal’s grip wasn’t far from boiling over, which made Cal’s own excitement swell. Cal moved the hand holding the belt straps to Jesse’s forearm, pulling him up so he was standing while Cal was still buried inside of him.

The position change provoked a groan from each of them, and Cal turned Jesse’s chin his way to demand entry to his mouth. He tasted like whiskey and carrot cake, and moaned against Cal’s mouth as their tongues warred and swirled. Prickly stubble on their chins scraped together, a beautiful contrast to the softness of Jesse’s lips.

“Gods, I love you,” Cal breathed against his lips, his heartbeat pulsing in his ears as Jesse smiled and nipped his bottom lip. Wrapping his arm around his chest to hold him steady, Cal bucked his hips into his prisoner while he wrung his cock with his other hand. Jesse pushed his hips back against him, begging and sobbing for more, his arms still tied behind him helplessly.

Cal pressed his lips to Jesse’s hairline, breathing in his warm, leather scent mixed with sweat and rose from Scarlet’s bottle. The combination was making him drunk with lust, lost completely in the intoxication of his whiskey-eyed bandit.

A stampede of lightning galloped down the base of his spine, sending white sparks to dance at the edge of his vision. Jesse screamed his name as he climaxed, painting the table and their discarded play cards with the evidence of their passion. Cal nearly threw him back over the table as he came, but didn’t want to lose the feeling of Jesse writhing against him.

His orgasm hit like a train, the hot pulsing inside Jesse escaping down his inner thighs while Cal’s knees grew weak. Jesse was panting and leaning back against him, spent and riding the last waves of passion as Cal’s thighs shook with each new pulse.

Jesse shook the belt off with ease, reaching back to run his nails over Cal’s ass and rest his head back against Cal’s shoulder. The bite of his nails against his hot skin complimented the melting pleasure swirling around him.

“By the Gods, Cal.” Jesse sighed, blissful and smiling. “You ruined my new cards.”

Cal huffed a lazy chuckle against his neck and kissed it, easing them apart once he could no longer take the contact. Since they didn’t have a lot of options, Jesse’s shirt was sacrificed as the method used to clean the evidence of their poker session.

The cards were unfortunately ruined, the table more rickety than before, and both men smelled like roses.

It was the best birthday Cal had ever had.

After cleaning, dressing, tossing the cards and pausing for another round of sinful kissing, they decided to head home.

“Did you have a good birthday?” Jesse laced their fingers together as they walked home.

“I did.” Cal loved the way the moon danced in the honey whiskey.

“What was your favorite part?” he teased with a smirk, trying to play it off like a casual question.

“I think that’s obvious.” Cal chuckled, sliding his eyes his way before adding, “The cake.”

“Oh-ho. You win a round of strip poker and suddenly you’re a goddamn comedian.” Jesse bumped him with his shoulder.

“You’re just a sore loser.”

Very sore in all the best ways.” He grinned, pulling Cal close to kiss him under the starry sky. Stallion Ridge was still around them, the breeze warm, smelling like flowers and summer.

It was perfect.

“Happy birthday, Cal.”

Of course the Centaur would want a carrot cake.

Happy Friday, everyone!

The cake pictured above is a bit too fancy for the one in the story, but it was so adorable I couldn't resist. I'm a big fan of lemon cake myself, but carrots not bad.

This is short story number 2 of 3 -- Cal's birthday! If you haven't read the first short story, The Hunt, make sure you do that before diving into this one.

Also, if you haven't read Suspects & Scales, this short does contain some spoilers. Read at your own risk!

Enjoy! <3


“Did Scarlet say what kind of trouble?” Cal asked as Jesse lead him towards the saloon.

“Didn’t say.” Jesse was glad he was leading so Cal couldn’t see the wicked grin on his face. It had taken some careful planning to get everything set up just right. Since each deputy, their partners and most of the town folk wanted to join in the celebration, the saloon was the only place that could comfortably hold everyone. Because there was going to be children present, the workers of the establishment took the afternoon off to join the festivities in a wholesome manner.

Once he pushed through the doors, the group inside cheered and yelled their practiced “surprise” to a gobsmacked Sheriff. Jesse spun on his heels, revealing his grin and gave his stunned Centaur a kiss beside the mouth.

“Happy birthday, darlin’.”

“You cheeky bastard,” Cal said around a laugh. “You put this together?”

Jesse gave a wink and moved aside to let the rest of the party goers swarm him for handshakes, hugs.

Scarlet had done an amazing job getting the saloon prettied up for their gathering. Vases with flowers were on the tables, no empty bottles or glasses around, and the place looked swept and tidy. Some food was set out for people to snack on, beer was available but Gibson, the one-eyed bartender, wasn’t letting anyone have more than a fun amount.

Sitting as the jewel of the food spread was a delicious smelling carrot cake with sugary glaze on top, made lovingly for Cal’s birthday by Mrs. Thompson.

Cal accepted the greetings and well wishes of the guests, slowly migrating to a table to sit and partake in some good food. Even though it was the man’s birthday, he still seemed a little uneasy about accepting gifts for the occasion. The generous folk of Stallion Ridge handed over all manner of things, from fresh preserves, baked goods, some fine new boots and even new linen for the house. The poor, honor bound Centaur didn’t know what to do with so much hospitality and gratefulness of the citizens, but he handled it well.

Jesse had to admit, watching his handsome Sheriff smile so much was a warmth he would treasure well beyond this day. The sunlight filtering in from the open saloon windows made his brown hair shine. His brown eyes were framed in smile lines he adored. Each time Cal laughed, it made Jesse’s heart flutter like a swarm of butterflies.

The townsfolk came and went and slowly the party became a more intimate affair. When the cake was finally cut, it was only close friends and family there to eat and force more gifts on the birthday boy.

“Uncle Cal, open mine!” Marybell had been vibrating with excitement for days about giving Cal the present her and Gunner wrangled. She placed a cloth wrapped jar onto the table, bouncing beside him as Cal pulled the knot loose and let the fabric fall away.

“Holy shit that’s a big bug!” Mack nearly choked on his bite of cake. The giant, multi-horned death beetle was lazily scraping at the side of the glass as Cal picked up the jar and looked it over. His eyes were wide with amazement, which made Marybell beam with pride.

“Do you like it?!”

“This is a Amethyst King Elk Beetle. Normally the males are blue, not purple...this color is so rare. Ah, look at the horns! They’re perfect. Where did you find this?” Cal moved his arm out of the way so Marybell could climb into his lap.

“It was near the river, south of town,” Gunner explained, sipping some beer. “That’s from both of us, by the way.”

“Papa helped me catch him!” Marybell grinned up at Cal from his lap.

“Thank you, Marybell. This is going to be my favorite beetle in my collection.”

Jesse had never seen his niece look so proud. And she once chased all the monsters out from under her bed all by herself with grit and a wooden gun. So this was a pretty big deal.

“I’m just glad that damn thing is out of the house,” Cooper grumbled, the slow scrape of the beetle making him visibly shiver. “I was convinced I was going to come home and it would have busted through the glass.”

Cal gave a chuckle and hugged Marybell one more time before she crawled down to go eat more cake.

“I didn’t wrap your present, Cal. It just came in.” Cooper pushed his glasses up his nose slightly, the smile he was trying to suppress failing as he handed Cal the small, green book with slightly frayed tips to the binding.

The Wayward Entomologist.” Cal grinned. “This is one of my favorites.”

“I know. Open it.”

Cal did as he was asked and his brows rose slightly. “Holy shit. Is this a first it signed?”

Jesse laughed as Cal looked at his brother like his head was made of snakes.

“Cooper,” Cal nearly choked. “Where did you get this?”

“I have my ways.” Cooper gave Cal’s thick shoulder a pat. “Happy birthday, Cal.”

“Wow, Coop. How the hell are we supposed to top that?” Mack said around a cheek full of cake.

“My turn!” Scarlet sang, sweeping over to the group in a lovely, purple dress with white accents. He sat in Cal’s lap where Marybell had been and set a pretty, twine wrapped box in front of him.

“Should I be afraid?” Cal peered up at him, only getting a wink in return. Scarlet was looking rather proud of himself, which meant whatever was inside was going to be good, and probably something Cal could use on Jesse later. Or vice-versa.

Cal carefully pulled the twine away, opening the hat box style container and immediately put the lid back on.

“Goddamnit, Scarlet.”

“Don’t be a prude! The babies are eating cake, they’re not even watching.” Scarlet flapped his gloved hand in the vague direction of where Marybell and Pearl were eating and playing. Begrudgingly, Cal opened the box again with a sigh and Scarlet grinned.

When Cal pulled out the long, leather riding crop, the room erupted into laughter, even though Cal didn’t join merriment. His cheeks were red and he was glaring at Jesse.

“This is not my fault!” Jesse managed around his laughing.

“I can show you how to use that if you two want to invite me over for a lesson,” Scarlet offered, his eyebrows wiggling.

Cal put the crop back into the box and scanned over the remaining items inside, his cheeks burning but he no longer looked miserable.

“I labeled each oil for what they’re best for, which ones are warming and cooling and which ones do not taste good so beware on where they go. Oh, and there’s a silk rope in there for when you want to play sheriff and bandit without using cuffs.” Scarlet tossed Jesse a wink. “You’re welcome.”

“Thanks, Scarlet.” Jesse returned the wink.

Scarlet hugged Cal around the neck and pressed a kiss to his temple, leaving behind a red kiss mark. “Happy birthday, Cal.”

“Thank you, Scarlet,” Cal smirked as Scarlet removed himself from his lap and swished over to the bar for a drink.

“Cody has a gift for you, Cal,” Quellin announced, placing his hand at the small of Cody’s back and edging him forward. The young man’s cheeks were fire red and he was fidgeting as his Iara better half eased him over to Cal.

“I researched traditional Centaur gifts from that culture book I got, and it said in there that one of the most important gifts were weapons passed down the family line. Well, I ain’t got nothing real impressive like that, but I did have knife my Mama gave me. Only thing was that the blade broke off some time back, but I kept the handle cause it was made from deer antler.” Cody pulled out a sheathed knife with a worn, bone white handle carved from antler.

The sheath looked new, sturdy and soft, with an embossed sheriff’s badge on the side. Cody handed it over and Cal took it gently.

“Since it didn’t have a blade, Quellin helped me get it replaced,” Cody explained as Cal slowly pulled the blade loose. The blade attached to the handle was gorgeous and viciously sharp, shining almost sapphire in the light. Mack gave a whistle and Gunner leaned over to take a better look.

“It’s Iara steel,” Quellin explained. “So don’t worry about rust or anything silly like that.”

“It’s from both of us,” Cody was quick to add. “Since we both put it together. It ain’t a sword’s ours and now it’s yours.”

Cal smiled, a sweet mixture of pride and being touched by Cody’s efforts. He pushed to his feet and gave Cody a hug, clapping his back.

“Thank you, Cody. This means a lot.”

Cody nodded quickly, squeezing Cal tight before stepping back beside Quellin. The former assassin was smirking, the same mixture of pride in his dark eyes as he kissed Cody’s temple.

“Alright, enough feelings,” Mack interrupted, finishing his cake and pulling his chair over beside Cal’s. From his pocket, Mack pulled out what looked like a long, vertical, wooden comb. At the top was something Jesse recognized right away as the Klelbor family crest, the same one on Cal’s shield back home. Under the crest was four long teeth that seemed to taper at the ends.

“It’s to keep that beautiful mane back while you’re running around.” Mack stood, pulling Cal’s hat off and tossing it onto the table. “What are you even doing wearing that inside like a heathen.”

Cal snickered, not seeming bothered by Mack gathering his hair back. He twisted it into a sloppy knot behind Cal’s skull and stabbed the pick through the meat of it. It slipped into place and held Cal’s thick hair back, even when he moved his head from side to side.

“That’s handy.” Cal reached back to feel it.

“Yep. I used Sky as a test model while I was carving it, since you both have pretty, long locks.”

“It should hold up fine,” Sky chimed in. “I flew around with it in my hair and it didn’t come loose.”

“Thanks, Mack.” Cal pulled his hair down and traced his thumb over the crest. “It’s beautiful.”

“You’re welcome!” Mack edged his seat back to the table to take a swig of beer. Sky stepped over as Mack returned to his beer.

“Gifts aren’t traditionally given in my culture unless someone is born or dies. Birthdays aren’t something I’m used to.” Sky pulled a chair over and took a seat beside Cal, his voice low and calm as ever. “When someone is born, they are given a blessing by an elder in the tribe to live a long life and find their path. But that’s hard to wrap.”

Cal chuckled and Sky cracked a small smile that was rarely seen.

Sky took Cal’s right hand gently, rotating it so the palm was up. Closing his eyes, Sky began whispering in his melodic language, the cadence steady and rhythmic in his smooth voice. In the pouch hanging from his side, Sky pulled out some loose, dry leaves and one long, black raven feather. Cal sat still, watching as Sky placed the items into his big palm and pressed Cal’s fingers closed around it.

As Sky uttered the last of his words, the feather that was sticking out of Cal’s fist melted away into light, disappearing as it drifted up like ash. Cal blinked, opening his hand to find nothing there.

“May you live long days with those you love and walk a noble path, my friend.” Sky pulled a small bag from the pouch and put it in Cal’s hand. “And here’s some tea. Happy birthday.”

As the party went on into the evening, the group shared their favorite stories about Cal, provoking laughter and a couple of sappy moments as well. Eventually, the saloon emptied and the party was over, leaving Cal and Jesse with presents to take home and some delicious leftovers.

“You have a good birthday?” Jesse glanced over as Cal helped Scarlet gather up dishes.

“I did.” Cal smiled. “Thank you, Jesse.”

“Leave all this, you two. Go have fun. Take my gift with you!” Scarlet called after them as Jesse helped corral Cal out of the saloon, snagging Scarlet’s box as he went.

“We’re not using that crop.” Cal pointed at the box. “It’s a matter of pride.”

“Didn’t you hear him? He’ll give us lessons!”

“That’s going away before we get home.”

“We’re not going home just yet.” Jesse grinned at his Centaur as they left the building. “I still need to give you your present.”

To be continued