Showdown at Yellowstone River by Angelia Sparrow and Naomi Brooks
erotic western historical romance (m/f)
Cover Art by Valerie Tibbs
Gunslinger Matt Court has hung it up for good after a disastrous encounter in El Paso. He moved to Dakota Territory, took out a homestead and started courting Annie, the banker's daughter. But when Annie comes up pregnant and runs away with her lover, her father calls in the notorious killer, Paz, to eliminate Matt.
But the mysterious Paz holds many secrets and Matt discovers not only the gunfighter's personal code of honor, but a truth that is worth both their lives.
Note: This book contains a bisexual hero who knows how to handle guns and women.
Paz rode easy out of the spring sunset on April first, when the first hint of green was starting to show, a relief after the bitter cold winter. The great Schoolhouse Blizzard, named because it had come on so fast that children were trapped in their schoolhouses, had wracked the territory in January. Everyone was glad to see the snow going.
The tired pinto lifted its feet in slow, steady rhythm. The topaz stones caught the last light and flared brown and gold, making his hatband look like a mirage. He customarily required one in payment as well as cash money.
More than one man had tried to take the trophy stones from him. Only one still lived to tell about it and folks said he'd never walk or see again.
Paz climbed off the horse and loosened the blanket that served for a saddle. The folk of Williston gave the outlaw wide berth. Nobody knew where he came from, or where he called home now. Nobody was even sure what he was, other than death in boots.
Most people said he was just a drifter, maybe a half-breed Mexican because of the name. A rare person said he was half-Apache, carrying on the war with the white men one kill at a time. Most folks laughed at that notion, since any Apache caught killing whites would be dancing on the air very quickly.
He tied up his horse in front of the telegraph office, ignoring the crowd of curious onlookers. Matt lurked near the back of the crowd, stealing a look at the man who'd been hired to kill him.
Paz barely glanced at the crowd, but Matt saw a pair of hungry, wolf-yellow eyes gleaming out from under the broad brim of Paz's hat. They seemed to land on him and bore into him. He had to be imagining things.
He'd heard that the man had buried his real name with his parents down in Abilene and sworn revenge on their killers. Others said it had been his wife and babies in Carson City. Whoever he'd taken to killing for, all those years ago, he'd done the job and done it right. When the dust had settled and the bodies were buried, the only thing left for Paz to do was become a gunfighter.
The crowd broke up. Matt was one of the few who watched him come out of the office. He moved with an easy grace and natural alertness, like a watchful panther. He still looked young, what little Matt could see of him, although he'd heard tales of Paz for at least a decade. The fringed buckskin jacket and the low hat covered most of his average-sized frame and obscured his face. He untied the horse with deft fingers and led it around back of the office.
Most gunfighters were young. Matt himself had started at seventeen, when he'd called out a drunk in Atchison for cheating at cards. The speed and the eye both faded with age. Paz had been killing for about ten years now, so he might not even be thirty. The light-footed killer moved as if he were still in his teens.
The last of the crowd dispersed when Paz did not return. They whispered he was bunking in the stable behind the jail. Of course, he couldn't stay in a rooming house or hotel. A decent, white gunslinger might, but a half-breed like Paz wasn't welcome.
Matt made his way back into the Purple Garter, by way of the necessary, the only thought in his head that he was a dead man. He couldn't take Paz. The killer looked too young, too fast, for his poor old battered body to match--let alone beat. His reprieve was over. He strongly considered taking Luke's advice and running for it, but that would only prove he was the coward so many of the townspeople already said he was.
Being shot in the back was not how he wanted to die, anyway. He'd rather face it, see it coming, and maybe have a chance to dodge it. He laid a five-dollar gold piece on the bar and laid a second beside it. “I want Miss Melanie all night and as much good whiskey as that will buy.”
Catherine looked at him. “If I was you, I'd be getting a good night's sleep and keeping my head clear.”
“If I'm dying tomorrow, I am not sleeping my last night alone.”
“Word moves faster than you do, it seems. Paz isn't going to kill you. He says he never kills innocent men. Artemus Williams is beside himself.”
Matt stared, unbelieving at this news. He hadn't realized how resigned he was to dying until the sentence was lifted.
He put the money back in his pocket and dropped a single quarter on the bar, ignoring Melanie's hurt look. “Just one drink then, Catherine, and I'll head home.”