“Cole! Breakfast is ready!” Jessie called out the door of her family’s small farmhouse. Jessie glanced at her mother. She knew that she wasn’t supposed to yell, but she’d already gone once to personally tell Cole it was time to eat, and she wasn’t about to go again.
She placed the last of the plates in front of the waiting empty chairs and gave her father a quick good morning hug before going back for the silverware.
Jessie could remember when it was her father who dragged everyone from the warm beds early in the morning before dawn to get their chores started, but he had never been able to get back to being the same person he was before the accident.
Jessie and her family did their best to help him where they could, but her father was a proud man and insisted on doing what he still could alone.
Jessie could remember the day as if it was yesterday. Her father had been out chopping wood when he was startled by a rattlesnake, his ax had slipped from his grasp and cut into his leg. He had been a little ways away from home and had to drag his leg all the way back. There was only so much the doctor could do and said that he was lucky to be alive, much less able to walk at all.
Ever since, he had suffered a bad limp that always kept him in some pain even though he would never admit it. He could hardly stand to ride a horse and required the help of staff to get around the house.
“How are the cattle this morning?” Jessie was startled from her memories by her father’s question.
He hadn’t been out to see to the cattle’s needs since the accident either. His prominent limp made it nearly impossible for him to take care of their feeding or even ride a horse anymore, but this didn’t keep him from supervising Jessie’s and Cole’s work on the farm.
“They’re doing great. Twelve of them are ready to go to market just as expected,” Jessie informed him as she took her seat and gave an annoyed glance towards Cole who had finally decided to finish up and join them.
In his haste he had left a muddy track across the kitchen floor that sent a phantom ache into Jessie’s back as she thought of cleaning it up. Just because she bore the brunt of the farm responsibilities didn’t mean she got a free pass on household responsibilities. It came with being one of the women of the house.
“Well, I’m sure you and Cole will do fine at the market.” Her father’s confident voice caused her to stop pouring water into her cup.
“You know how important it is for our family to sell them all,” he added gravely.
Jessie hardly heard the last part of what her father said. “Cole? Why is he going with me?” Jessie tried not to let disappointment leak into her voice, but she could tell by Cole’s smug look that it was definitely noticeable.
“I know you usually take care of all the cattle sales, but Cole is nearly fourteen. After all, it will be his responsibility to run the ranch one day,” her father added. Jessie couldn’t help feeling a small pang of jealousy at the loving look her father gave Cole as he talked about his future role at the ranch.
Of course she had always known that she wouldn’t be left with the ranch, but it hurt nonetheless. After all, she had been the one to take on most of the responsibility, and she really cared for the ranch. It was hard to know that all that meant nothing because she was a girl. She was expected to get married and help a man on some other ranch, somewhere away from here.
She would be eighteen soon, and her family was often worried about the fact she still hadn’t had anyone come calling. Jessie wasn’t exactly looking for a match. She would rather stay with her family and help them with the ranch they’d already worked so hard to build, but it seemed she really had no choice in the matter. It was just how it was done.
Jessie never felt as if she could tell her mother that she didn’t feel ready to be married. She wished she could do something different with her life, but different was frowned upon. Young men took on their father’s ranch or businesses and young women were married to those young men and helped them with their new responsibilities.
Cole fidgeted uncomfortably in his seat under Jessie’s glare. Despite their occasional sibling rivalry, Jessie knew that he didn’t really mean to cause her to feel bad.
“Yeah, it’s fine,” she consented and held out her hand to her mother as they prepared to say grace.
Jessie offered her genuine gratitude as she listened to her father’s deep voice offer up a blessing on their food. Soon they were all digging into breakfast heartily. It was one of Jessie’s favorite parts about her family, the time they spent with each other talking and planning their days over breakfast.
Jessie ate so fast she was surprised when she looked down at an empty plate and realized she was full. She had a lot of chores to do and couldn’t let her enjoyment of breakfast slow her down.
“Ma, may I be excused?” She looked expectantly at her mother who still had a considerable amount of food on her plate.
“Why are you in such a hurry?” Her mother gave a chuckle and shook her head in wonder.
“I have a lot of things to prepare before we go to the market,” Jessie said as she gave Cole a quick look. “You’d better come help me since you’re coming and all,” she added, looking at Cole with a new appreciation. The idea of Cole coming along no longer seemed that bad. Maybe he would be a help after all.
A flash of excitement passed through Cole’s eyes, and he shoveled the remaining bites of food into his mouth. “May I be excused as well?” he asked, trying to hide the fact he hadn’t quite swallowed yet. Jessie could notice this fact clearly, and she was sure her mother could too.
“Oh, all right, run along you two,” her mother finally consented. Cole and Jessie leapt from their chairs. It wasn’t as if it were a competition, but Jessie couldn’t help noticing she was to the door first. Soon they were in the barn mucking out stalls and preparing the feeding troughs for the animals.
“Jessie?” Cole’s voice pulled Jessie’s concentration from her work and inner thoughts. “If you really don’t want me to come, I’ll find a way to stay home,” he said apologetically. Jessie was surprised at Cole’s offer, and it made her suddenly feel guilty. He couldn’t tell what she was feeling, and everything that had already been decided for them was by no means his fault.
“Naah, don’t worry about it. I was just surprised. It’ll be nice to have someone to do everything I don’t want to. You know, that’s part of being the new person on the job.” Jessie threw a quick smile his way and he returned it with a good natured chuckle.
“Thanks,” he said before returning to work without another word. Jessie felt warmth fill her heart. Sometimes when she and Cole bickered over little things, it was easy to forget how much they really cared for each other and how much they needed each other. Besides Ma and Pa, Cole was the only other family she had.
Ma and Pa always told stories of their aunts and uncles who were back in the city, but Jessie was doubtful she’d ever meet them.
With her smile still on her face, she put a little more effort into her work. Soon they’d be off to market, and she couldn’t wait to get a few things from the general store. It’d been nearly two months since she’d been into town, and she was very excited about the opportunity to get to do a little shopping.
“Be careful!” their father boomed, as they rode from the yard, guiding the small group of cattle onto the road. Jessie and Cole looked back and waved at their father who had called out his last instruction for the morning. He always worried about them and even though she occasionally was bothered that it seemed he didn’t trust her, Jessie also appreciated his care.
The image of her parents embracing each other lovingly as they watched Jessie and Cole ride off into the still dim morning light was burned into Jessie’s mind. If there was one thing in this life that she was sure about, it was her parents’ love for each other.
Jessie could only hope that if she did get married, she would find someone she could be in love with like her mother was with her father. Their steady devotion to each other had been one of the things that had kept their family strong throughout the years. Jessie always heard stories from town or from neighbors whose families were broken up by an unfaithful spouse or some other family issue. This was something she and Cole had never had to worry about.
Cole was smiling broadly as he rode his horse on his side of the cattle. They worked together to herd the dozen huge animals towards town. Jessie had to admit that it was easier with two people than doing it by herself.
The sun was soon very hot, and soon Jessie felt as if she was soaked from her shoulders to her waist. She could tell by looking over at Cole that he too was feeling the heat, but it seemed his excitement was making him oblivious to the discomfort. Even the beautiful scenery and the thought of arriving in town couldn’t ease the heat for Jessie. She began to feel anxious to arrive. They didn’t pass anyone on the road which worried her. Hopefully, they hadn’t left too late to get their cattle a good chance at market.
It had been nearly three hours of riding and herding cattle, and Jessie was relieved as the shape of the town started to show itself on the horizon. She had begun to think they would never get there.
The cattle had for the most part been cooperative, but occasionally one would break off from the group, intent on reaching some of the green grass along the trail. Twice the group had diverted to drink from the creek that wound its way close to the trail and then off again into the woods like some giant serpent. Their tails brushed their backs busily as the deer flies nipped at their leathery hides. They tossed their heads, and Jessie knew they also resented the hot sun beating down on their backs.
“We’re finally there!” Cole’s loud voice startled her as she slapped another biting fly from her arm.
“Not quite, we’re still about twenty minutes out.” Jessie laughed. She didn’t want to squash his enthusiasm, but they did need to be realistic.
Soon the cattle seemed to spot the buildings in the distance and began to pick up their pace and were decidedly easier to herd as they could now see their destination.
Arriving to the town was just the first part. Getting the animals to the livestock section of the market was the difficult part. It seemed that half of Texas had shown up to the Rango market to sell their wares. The streets were crowded with bustling activity, and there were all kinds of food and clothing being sold at the different booths. Dogs wound between the legs of the people looking for any food that might have fallen. Vendors shouted to passersby advertising their wares.
Jessie and Cole had to take turns giving slight nudges to people and pushing the cattle forward. If you waited your turn at market, it would never come, and you would end up at the end of the day with no sales made. Everyone understood this, so no one really became offended at a little pushing and shoving.
As they approached the livestock section, the cattle in their pens greeted the newcomers with a chorus of moos. Jessie and Cole had a bit of a struggle keeping their group from mixing with another incoming group of cattle, and Jessie sighed with relief when they finally found an empty pen and managed to guide the last one in and close the gate.
There was every type of animal from cattle to little tiny chicks begging to be taken home. Jessie couldn’t help wishing for a moment that she was here to look around and enjoy herself; there was so much to see, but of course, selling the cattle came first. Now it was a matter of waiting until the right person spotted them and decided they were exactly what was missing on their ranch.
Jessie looked with pride at her family’s cattle. They were all exceptional in size and in color, and she was sure they would sell most if not all of them.
“We just stand here and wait?” Cole asked with a confused expression.
“Yup. Not as exciting as you thought, huh?” She gave him a funny grin.
“If anyone seems interested, just try to get them to buy them. That’s all there is to it,” she added, feeling as if she had given sufficient training to her new charge. Jessie leaned against her waiting horse and took a long sip of water. Today was going to be a long hot day, but hopefully, well worth it.
She was thankful for the big tree giving shade to the pen where the cattle stood. The shade felt so good after the long ride in the sun. She closed her eyes for a minute and enjoyed the gentle breeze that brought some relief to the hot morning. The sounds around her, though chaotic were comforting and familiar.
Pete pushed through the crowded market. He hated large crowds, but he hadn’t been given much of a choice in the matter. Everyone else had opted out of going to the market on the excuse they were getting ready for the afternoon and how they had gone the last time or the time before that.
Pete understood that they needed the supplies, so in the end he’d accepted his unwanted task and took it in hand. He’d already filled a large burlap sack with most everything he could think of that they needed, plus a few things they he was sure they already had plenty of, just in case. His last stop was the general store where he only needed a few select things, but he had no idea where it might be in the crush of people.
“Woah! Woah!” A startled cry caused him to look towards the animal section. A young woman was battling a huge cow that she was trying to get out of the pen of a small group of cattle. She received a painful looking blow to her shin as she grasped wildly for the rope around the animal’s neck. The animal obviously did not wish to be separated from the group.
The two men standing outside the pen near her looked on with amusement, and a young boy was hopping around doing his best to help. For a moment, Pete considered going on his way. After all, it was no business of his what happened to the blonde haired girl who looked as if she should be home cooking instead of at market with a herd of cattle.
With a sigh, he set down his sack of items and made his way over, arriving within moments.
He reached easily around the young woman and hauled down on the rope with all his strength. He had to admit, the beast was giving quite the fight. The girl stroked the cow’s neck and tried to calm it down with her words as he finally pulled it through the gate, separating it from its peers. The two men handed her a wad of bills and pulled the resisting animal away, laughing as they went. The cow looked back, bellowing mournfully as they disappeared into the milling crowd of people.
The onlookers seemed to have become bored with the spectacle and went back to their business with only a few backward glances. The young woman turned towards him with a relieved sigh. A few strands of her blonde hair had come out from her two braids and encircled her face in an endearing manner. Her bright blue eyes were full of mischief and had a sparkle that surprised Pete. Her face was flushed from the heat and the struggle with the cow.
“Thank you,” she said with a firmness in her voice that surprised Pete. “The poor girl. She didn’t want to leave the others,” she added with regret in her voice.
“What are you doing out here with all these cattle by yourself, miss?” Pete ignored her thanks and looked at her pointedly. Her expression became quickly guarded, and her eyes snapped with an anger Pete hadn’t expected.
“She’s not all by herself!” The young boy who Pete estimated to be thirteen or fourteen stood up proudly beside her and took the rope roughly from Pete’s hands. “And who are you anyway?” the boy asked rudely, stepping a little closer to the young woman protectively.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean any disrespect. My name is Philip.” Pete backtracked quickly, taking off his hat and holding out his hand. He hadn’t wanted to offend the girl. Besides, he should have already been on his way. “I’m a little new to town,” he continued, “Would you mind showing me to the general store?” He hoped his request would change the subject.
The girl observed him suspiciously but shook his hand. The boy shook his hand too but stood slightly in front of her as if to shield her from harm.
“It’s halfway across town,” she said uncertainly. After Pete stood in awkward silence for a minute, the young woman glanced about her uncomfortably. “I guess I could show you. I need to go there myself,” she finally said.
“Are you sure?” Cole asked.
“Yes, I’ll be fine,” Jessie reassured her brother, patting him on the shoulder. “You think you can handle selling the cattle by yourself for a while?” she asked.
Cole looked uncertain for a moment then squared his shoulders, “Of course I can,” he said finally.
“Good. I won’t be long. I’m sure you will be a good salesman,” she added playfully.
Pete gave a small sigh of relief. He hadn’t exactly planned on having company to the general store, but then again, it would be good not to get lost, and he would finish this undesirable trip faster than planned. He also thought it might be interesting to get better acquainted with this girl. While he didn’t often enjoy meeting new people, there was something about the girl’s strong character and searching eyes that drew him to her. Of course, he would probably never see her again after today, but what could it hurt to spend some time walking to the general store?
Pete waited patiently as the girl gave soft instructions to the boy who he assumed to be her little brother. By the way she touched the cattle and spoke so seriously, Pete could tell she cared and knew a lot about the animals. It was odd to him to see a young woman so interested in farm work.
As they walked, he noticed the way she looked at everything with appreciation and interest. He remembered when he used to look at the world that way, and it was almost amusing to see someone else enjoy it so innocently. This young woman, whose name was still a mystery, seemed so confident and so pure and innocent that it was intriguing to be around her.
“Are you okay?” Pete asked after a few moments. He had noticed that even though the young woman wasn’t exactly limping, she was still favoring her left leg just a little bit. He was sure most people wouldn’t notice, but he had an exceptional eye for detail. She looked up at him with surprise in her eyes.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Oh, it happens sometimes with cattle. They don’t really mean to hurt people, but they are so big and clumsy.” She laughed a little, but Pete could hear a little bit of underlying discomfort in her mirth. He wondered how bad the leg really hurt but decided not to press the matter.
“Do you have any other siblings besides your brother?” Pete tried to change the subject since she didn’t seem to want to talk about her injury. The girl hadn’t been fooling around when she’d said the general store was halfway across town, and he definitely didn’t want to walk the entire journey with an awkward silence between them.
“How did you know he was my brother?” She looked up at him quickly, her eyes full of curiosity.
“Something about the way he was so protective of you.” Pete laughed lightly.
The girl paused a moment, “My parents wanted a big family, but in the end, it was just me and my brother. He’s a good kid, though, so I don’t mind,” She gave a little shrug and looked down at the ground as if she was embarrassed for sharing so much information.
“What about you?” she asked, peering up at him once again.
“I don’t have any siblings,” Pete said a little too quickly. He surprised himself at how truthful he’d been. In the past he would make up stories at how he had had a huge family with lots of siblings and cousins, but the truth was, he was an only child.
“Oh,” the girl had a sad look for a moment, “that must be lonely,” she said after thinking about it.
“It’s fine, I do have quite a few friends.” Pete was sure this young woman wouldn’t approve of his friends, but he didn’t mention it. Most likely, despite how much fun it would be to see her again, he never would, so it wasn’t as if it would matter.
“Well here we are,” The young woman motioned towards the small general store. Pete set his large sack of provisions down by the post of the store. He didn’t need much and was sure he’d be out in a matter of minutes.
“Thank you for bringing me. Are you going to do some shopping too?” he asked kindly.
“Yeah, I have a couple things to pick up, and it was no problem to bring you … since I was coming anyway.” She paused a moment and looked uncertain as to whether she should go in first or not. Pete waited for her to make up her mind. Somehow it was quite entertaining to see her so undecided. She finally walked into the store and began choosing the supplies that her family would need in the coming weeks.
They each bought their needed supplies and paused awkwardly on the porch of the store on their way out.
“Will you be staying long in town?” she finally asked.
“Actually, I’m just passing through, but you never know, we might meet again someday.” Pete was surprised that he actually hoped he could see her again, but he knew that if he did, it wouldn’t be under the greatest of circumstances. “Well, in case we don’t see each other again, thanks for your help.”
The girl smiled and gave him a sort of half wave before turning and heading back to the cattle market without another glance backwards.
Pete smiled to himself and shook his head in wonder. At least he had run into one interesting thing during his trip to town.
It took every ounce of Jessie’s willpower not to look back one more time at the handsome stranger. It baffled her how a person she’d never met before could make her so nervous and yet so curious at the same time. There was something about his crooked smile that made him easy to talk to despite all of Jessie’s hang-ups about strangers.
She and her family were always overly cautious about strangers. They had had too many bad experiences with them in the past. Jessie had been only eight years old when their first experience had almost put them on the street without a roof over their heads.
After that, her father had made sure that both she, Cole, and their mother all knew that strangers were to be kept at arm’s length until they became friends. It was one of her father’s favorite sayings, and one that he said often enough so they would all remember.
It was a value that Jessie had followed to the letter until today. She had never seen Philip in town before, and he had clearly said that he wasn’t from around here, so as far as she could tell, he had been honest, but still, one could never be too cautious.
Jessie hurried down the street a little anxiously. She knew that there were many cattle still left to sell, and she couldn’t leave Cole all alone with them for long. After all, this was his very first time selling at the market, and if the animals weren’t sold, she would be to blame. Their family depended on the income they received from the livestock, and they would all suffer in the long run if she didn’t sell every single one of the cattle they’d brought. It was a responsibility Jessie took very seriously, and she wasn’t about to disappoint her waiting parents this time any more than the last times she’d come to market.
Once Cole and the remaining cattle came into sight, Jessie was more than a little surprised to find that three had been sold in her absence of less than an hour. Maybe Cole was more cut out for this than she’d thought.
“I sold three of them,” he proclaimed proudly as she walked up.
“I can see that. How did you do it?” She was genuinely curious as to how he had sold that many, being so new to the trade.
“Well, it did help that one man was looking for two cows and the other man was his friend, so I guess technically it was one sale,” he said sheepishly. For a moment, Cole looked a little disappointed, but he recovered quickly. “Pretty good for my first time, right?” he asked, looking for her approval.
“I’m quite impressed,” Jessie admitted honestly. It had actually been a huge help having Cole along. They now only had eight cattle left to sell.
The afternoon moved along slowly. Jessie and Cole took some time to have lunch and traded off with each other a few times so they could each see a little of the market. That was another thing Jessie enjoyed about having Cole along. Normally, she would only get a chance to look around if all the animals were sold before sundown, which was a difficult feat.
They were now sitting with the stragglers waiting for their last cow to sell. The other eleven had sold at a consistent pace all afternoon, and it was just their luck that they would trudge home with a lone animal, but it seemed they had no choice.
“Let’s pack up; we shouldn’t be riding in the dark. You know how Ma worries,” Jessie said dejectedly as she placed her pack on the back of the saddle and gave her horse one last drink before their long ride home. She fastened the cow’s rope to her saddle horn. They didn’t want to be herding the animal all the way home in the dark. “We did pretty good anyway,” Jessie remarked patting the lone cow.
“Yeah, I guess we could’ve done worse,” Cole said. Cole was right, but Jessie couldn’t help feeling a little bad about their incomplete job. As they headed out of the market, even the cow’s head hung low as if she knew she had disappointed her owners by not being sold.
“Miss! Miss!” A man’s voice rang down the street as they headed out of town.
Jessie looked back to see a man running toward them and calling out in the dusk light. “Miss, are you still selling the cow?” the man panted, worn out from his running.
Confused, Jessie nodded.
“You’re the man who bought one earlier, from me!” Cole exclaimed with obvious excitement.
“Yes, I actually found that I had enough to purchase a second animal after all. I couldn’t come back before now and was hoping you’d still be around.
Jessie hopped down from her horse. She couldn’t keep the relieved smile from her face. They wouldn’t be going home with an unsold animal after all. The man delivered payment and took the rope, leading the cow along behind him back into town where he’d come from. The cow looked back and flicked her ears. She seemed surprised to be leaving them but passively followed her new owner.
“Come on, we will have to ride a little harder than I would’ve liked.” Jessie looked up at the sky with worry. It was later than she’d thought, and she hated the idea of riding the long empty stretch between here and home so late and in the dark. It wasn’t that she hadn’t done it before, but it always made her uncomfortable. There was always the slight fear that there might be bandits, gangs, or even Indians waiting around the next corner, and now that she had Cole with her, she felt the burden of protecting him.
This thought made Jessie laugh a little to herself. The land was so flat they could see for a mile or more. The only things that occasionally obscured their view were the trees; if it weren’t for that her father always said you could see from one side of Texas to the other.
She tucked the money the man had given her into the hidden flat bag that sat underneath the stirrup flap. Her father had stitched it there for her to put the market money into in case she ever encountered bandits. With any luck they wouldn’t think to look the saddle over and would just assume a girl didn’t carry cash with her riding alone. It really was clever. She smiled as she thought of how clever her father was.
Jessie figured that Cole was as tired as she was. They didn’t really talk much on the way home but instead kept their eyes open and their minds focused on the ride. Another danger of riding in the dark was not being able to see the path in front very well, but luck was on their side. The moon came out, and everything seemed to glow eerily. Jessie was surprised at the details she could see. It was a dimmer version of the sun, and the trees and bushes cast shadows all around them. The water in the creek glittered with the moon’s faint reflection, and the hooting of an owl in the distant woods sent a shiver down her back.
She shook her head and sighed. She began to feel sleepy as the rhythmic sounds of the horses’ hooves went on and on. She was thankful for the evening breeze which had chased away the heat and humidity they had suffered under in the morning.
Finally, she began to recognize the trees, and they came to the big gate to the first pasture. Cole dismounted and opened the gate with a yawn as Jessie led the horses through and waited for him to close it again. When they came to the second gate, she was surprised to see that it was partially open. She was sure they had closed it when they left in the morning. She wondered how it had been left open. Her father never rode anymore, and her mother wouldn’t have gone anywhere alone.
Suddenly as the breeze shifted, she smelled something that caused her to sit up and look around. A faint glow lit a huge pillar of smoke that rose into the air, and it was in front of them right behind the familiar wall of trees that protected her family’s ranch. It sent a jolt of fear through her heart, and the sleepiness that had enveloped her moments before was replaced with a sharp awareness that something was wrong.
She glanced at Cole who had apparently seen the same thing. He pulled himself back into the saddle, and they both pushed their horses into a canter without a word. Jessie didn’t know what the smoke meant, but she knew it couldn’t be good.
Pete didn’t join in with the hoots and hollers of his companion. Their activities of the night had him so conflicted he couldn’t think right and the events kept on replaying in his mind. Every night that they rode together, he told himself it wouldn’t turn out bad, but it had a way of turning into something he wanted no part of very quickly.
He had agreed to be a part of the gang with Marcus when they had turned seventeen and were looking for mischief, but he had never thought they would go so far as to kill people when they stood in their way.
He had begun to notice the direction they’d taken several years before, but he could see no way to change it. He couldn’t just abandon Marcus. They weren’t related by blood, but they were family, real family. They had promised to stick by each other and look out for each other as if they were brothers. They had even named their gang the Franzen Brothers as a symbol of their friendship being brotherhood.
Pete glanced over at Marcus who was riding beside him. He too was silent, but it wasn’t because of disapproval of their activities. It was because he could sense something was off with Pete.
“What’s wrong tonight, brother?” Marcus asked, his eyes sparkling with excitement in the moonlight.
As if he didn’t know.
Pete glanced back at the column of smoke that trailed into the night sky behind them.
“Don’t tell me you’re upset about that. The man practically asked for it.” Marcus pulled his horse up beside Pete’s and gave him a playful slap on the back.
“Cheer up, Pete. It’s time to celebrate, the loot we gathered tonight is sure to keep us going till our next job.”
Pete didn’t have to feign disinterest in whatever Marcus had planned next. Even if he didn’t like it, he was sure he’d have no say in it.
“Look, I’m sure he’ll be fine. They’ll get a doctor and he’ll be fine.” Marcus spoke low so that only Pete could hear him.
Pete knew that Marcus was often worried about seeming soft to the rest of the gang. No one knew that he even had a soft spot except for Pete. The Marcus he’d known as a kid was the man who would step up to protect any old soul in trouble, but the Marcus he knew today had turned into a man who only knew cruelty and power. However, Pete also knew that the man who had once existed still lived inside of him, and he stuck around for the times that man appeared.
Despite Marcus’s words, Pete saw a flash of regret pass through his friend’s eyes. Regret was an emotion that Pete recognized well. Pete nodded and repeated Marcus’s words to himself repeatedly as they rode towards camp. Marcus was probably right. Pete tried to keep from asking more questions, but they asked themselves in his mind, haunting him with endless possibilities.
Why had the man and woman been all alone out there? He had seen items that belonged to children. Were their children out visiting? What would they think when they came back to the scene they’d left on that ranch?
What about the other places they’d raided that night? Would the families make it next year with the wages they’d stolen? His doubts and thoughts continued to plague him as he participated in the group’s festivities for the night. Only heavy drinking began to dull the constant rush of worry that filled his brain. He wondered if he could ever forgive himself for his choices, or even more importantly, would anyone else be able to?
“A West Breeze of Love” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
When Jessie’s father is murdered by a ruthless gang, the only thing she wants is to take vengeance on his killers. Facing this dreadful situation, she sees only one option: going undercover as a man and infiltrating the same gang that brought tragedy to her family. But when one of the gang members turns out to be someone she’s met before and finds out her secret, how long will it be until things get ugly?
Philip is an active member of one of the most notorious criminal gangs. Even though their leader is his childhood friend, he can’t help but question their violent techniques. But when Philip discovers a dangerous secret about the new member that has recently joined them, things will get much more complicated. Will he choose his friendship over the charming lady who managed to deceive them? Or will he give in to his feelings about her, risking their lives?
When choosing sides becomes a matter of life and death, Jessie and Philip will have to decide whether they can really trust each other. Will Jessie eventually find justice for her father? Or will she end up risking both her life and her only chance for a new start?
“A West Breeze of Love” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 90,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.