Tuesday is already rolling around again? Geez, where’s the time going? I have been very busy the last week and a half, and haven’t done much more writing. But overtime is over, and after this coming weekend I’ll have most of my evenings free. I plan to do an ARC giveaway for Wolf’s Oath during the week of the 14th, but only through my newsletter. If you’d like to get a free advanced readers copy of Connie and Des’ story, feel free to sign up for my newsletter. I’m planning on giving away 20 ARCs.
Meanwhile, here’s another snip from further along in Chapter 1 of Wolf’s Vengeance. Enjoy!
Mel didn’t feel calm. As she leaned against the wall beside her window, her heart was beating in her throat so hard she could count her pulse by it. She stared out the window, forcing herself to focus on the ranch yard and the rolling hills beyond. They were bare except for the dried yellow grass that moved in the hot summer breeze. A shadow bobbed on the crest of the hill to her left. A rider? A movement close by caught her attention and she saw her oldest brother, Marc, run around the house to leap up the front steps. The front door opened and slammed shut, and then the solid thunk of the bar settling into the brackets on the door drew a relieved sigh from her.
“Mel?” he yelled.
“Yeah. Me and Sara are safe upstairs,” she yelled back. “And I just saw a rider coming up the hill to the west. There he is again, and there’s another rider behind him.”
“Sara? You in your room?” Marc called. “Anyone out back?”
“I haven’t seen anyone yet,” the girl shouted.
“Keep your eyes open. Let me know if you see anyone else. These two riding up to the front door might be trying to distract us from anyone else sneaking up the back.”
“You got it.”
Mel waited by the window, searching the empty landscape for more riders. The two rode under the arched entry in the fence. She watched their hands, noting they held them in plain sight, nowhere near the pistols in their belts or the rifles sheathed on their saddles. Smart. On the road they were sitting ducks for a gunman. She lifted her rifle to have it ready in case of trouble.
“See anyone out back, Sara?” she called in a low voice.
Okay, maybe it was just a neighborly call. But she recognized the riders as they came closer. Sam and Curt Fosse were the two oldest in the family since she had killed their brother Rob last winter. Did they know that their brothers Jim, Randy, and Dave were dead too? She doubted this was a friendly visit.
When the Fosses got to the edge of the yard, Marc yelled, “That’s far enough. What do you want?”
“Just passing by,” Sam shouted back, tipping the brim of his hat back to show a white smile. All the Fosses were handsome devils, Mel reflected, emphasis on ‘devils’. “Heard your sister went off a week ago to Ellsworth to be a prize for a Bride Fight.”
“That’s right.” Marc’s tone was cold and flat, but it didn’t discourage Sam.
“So, who won her?”
“How would I know? Haven’t gotten a letter yet. Hell, the fight might not even have taken place yet.”
Mel smiled. Not exactly a lie. She had gone to the Bride Fight and been won by Jim Fosse, and she hadn’t sent a letter. Not, she reflected, that Marc had a problem with lying. He could say anything with a bland, blank face and no one could tell he was lying. Sam’s face lifted to stare up at her window. Mel stood utterly still, knowing she couldn’t be seen where she was. After a minute he looked back to the front of the house. “You had visitors last night. They had some women with them, I heard.”
“You hear a lot.”
Sam laughed. “Sure. Folks like to talk to me. So who were they?”
“Just travelers, passing through. We sold them some supplies and they left this morning.”
“Were the women young? Pretty?”
Marc declined to answer. Silence stretched. Mel moved slowly and carefully to wipe at the sweat gathering on her upper lip. It wasn’t nerves that made her sweat, she assured herself. The bedroom was sweltering in the humid July afternoon. She kept her gaze sweeping over the distant hills, looking for any threat, but checked Curt and Sam frequently. They sat quiet in their saddles, twenty-five yards from the house. If they thought they could force Marc to speak, they were in for a surprise. Her big brother was a champion at keeping his mouth shut. Finally, Sam gave up and spoke again.
“Mind if we fill out canteens?”
“Yeah, I do. It ain’t but a three hour ride home for you. You won’t die of thirst before then. You oughta get going.”
Mel could imagine Sam’s mouth tightening. “Not exactly neighborly.”
“Yeah,” Marc drawled. “I get that way with folks who threaten to burn me out, kill my brothers, and rape my sister.”