Chris felt sorry for JD.
He had seen young love blossom and slowly wither as JD and Casey figured out after a long and fruitless courtship that had lasted almost three years, they were not meant to be together. He guessed the idea of being in love had been stronger than the truth, but eventually they realized they were both deliberately putting off setting a wedding date. Simply put, they had grown up and grown apart at the same time, reminding Chris of the ladies that had turned his young head before he met his first true love, Sarah.
He shied away from the memory as one of those young ladies of his youthful past had been Ella Gaines.
As he sat outside the jail drinking coffee he felt bittersweet sorrow for JD when they watched a slightly older and wiser Casey walk by on the arm of another man. She had grown out of her tomboy phase, wearing a pretty pale yellow and green dress that showed off her feminine curves to perfection, and she looked happy. Laughing and smiling. The young man with her seemed just as besotted with her, unable to take his eyes off her. Chris cast a glance towards JD, half expecting to see a sorrowful look on his face but JD barely even noticed her. Instead he was looking along the main street, keeping a watch on the coming and goings of the townsfolk, and on any new faces in town.
Chris found himself staring at JD, as if truly noticing him for the first time. The youthful features of the kid who had leaped off the stagecoach with just a saddle and a single carpet bag of belongings had changed. His soft face had become more angular, and Chris had noticed he had lost the recklessness of youth. Several tragic events had shaped the boy into a man, bringing maturity faster, he thought, recalling the innocent Annie Neuhaus and the killer Maddie Stokes. After his own experiences with insane women - Ella - he guessed JD ought to be glad Maddie Stokes was dead.
A few women had tried to replace Sarah in his heart over the years, but he had not been interested in kindling a relationship and marriage, especially after Ella came back into his life and shredded his heart and almost his mind. No woman had turned his head since the day he learned of Ella's part in the murder of his family, not even the beautiful Mary Travis, even though he still craved the touch of another warm body. Instead he remained aloof, no longer even bothering to ride down to Purgatorio to pay a prostitute to take the edge of his needs. He no longer wanted any woman's touch.
What about a man's touch, came an unbidden thought.
He looked at JD and no longer saw a boy at all. JD chose that exact moment to face him, eyebrows climbing as he caught the expression on Chris's face that Chris was too slow to hide but instead of the expected disgust a warm smile pulled JD's lips wider. Chris had seen hero worship on JD's face since the first day they met but this wasn't it. This was something different, something deeper, with a heat that burned low in his belly.
"About time you noticed me, Chris," JD murmured.
No more words passed between them but Chris had never been one for too many words. Instead there were layers of looks and meanings, and days later, when he felt JD's lips brush against his out on the trail, far away from the prying eyes of others, he hoped he had found his second true love.