He sat in his rocking chair, looking out at the quiet street. It had been over six months since he had sent her home to San Francisco...home to her family. And still he could not sit in the chair without thinking of her. Hell, he could do very little without thinking of her.
He wondered if she was safe; if she had been able to return to her family. Had they allowed her to stay with them? What if she had arrived home only to be turned away; sent off to another relative that held no regard for her well-being?
The young man sighed, feeling very much older than his age; nearly overwhelmed by the loneliness that had been his constant companion since he had held her that final time.
"Ezra, you are a melancholy fool. She was...is...a mere child. An innocent still in need of her mother's bosom and bereft of worldly knowledge." He sighed and shook his head. "But what was her reward upon her return? Her mother...the poor woman could not have been happy at having to send her child out into the world." How could he be certain? He had no real knowledge of Li Pong's mother, or anyone else related to her other than one despicable uncle. Could he know what it was that he had sent her to?
"Damn it!" He growled, scrubbing a smooth hand across his face. "She seemed to have no reservations about returning to her family. Most certainly she would have voice some concern."
But would she? He recalled the night he had found her in his room. Although he had given her her freedom the girl insisted upon repaying her debt. With a sigh, he rested his head against the chair back and closed his eyes. As soon as he did however, soft brown eyes stared at him from his memories. A pair of soft, red lips smiled shyly at him; a pair of arms reached for him tentatively. His green eyes flashed open as he heard her voice whisper "I do not feel...obliged," and he felt the warmth of desire spread throughout his body.
"Ah, hell," he moaned softly, reaching for his flask. Opening it, he drank long and deep, downing almost half the contents of the silver container. To his regret, he found it only added to the warmth.
A sudden crash of thunder drew his attention to the world outside. The incoming storm perfectly matched the inner turmoil he felt. It did nothing to decrease those feelings, however. Nothing could at the moment.
The gambler toyed with the idea of taking comfort in the bed of one of the women who lived in Virginia's Hotel. He might find a release to the sudden needs he felt. Then he decided against that plan. It felt too much like a betrayal.
Not even pausing to remove his tie or boots, the unhappy young man fell across his featherbed and prayed for sleep...