Authors: Sienna Mynx
Published by The Divas Pen LLC
Copyright 2013 Sienna Mynx
Cover design by Reese Dante
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems—except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews—without permission in writing from the author at
[email protected] This book is a work of fiction. The characters, events, and places portrayed in this book are products of the author’s imagination and are either fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author.
For more information on the author and her works, please see
To my wonderful beautiful nieces who always inspire me to reach deep and explore the boundless depths of my imagination. Auntie loves you!
Table of Contents
Hot lead zipped past the outlaw’s head. The projectile landed its targeted strike. A single bullet ripped through his rawhide jacket and pierced his side.
He could feel his skin singe as the bullet sliced through him while pain strangled the tortured cry of torment in his throat. The outlaw had to ride and ride hard if he was to survive Tyler Shepherd’s noose …
Jeremiah Polk’s adrenaline was the only fuel he had left to burn. He galloped at a dangerous speed as he turned and fired back from his six-shooter until the gun was spent. Maybe he hit one of them. Maybe he didn’t. He couldn’t tell with the sun disappearing behind the mountains. Dusk and shadows deepened. Death awaited him in the valley. It didn’t matter. Jeremiah rode hard and he rode fast. Once he crossed into the forested plains, the path narrowed and the last of the daylight disappeared.
I’m bleeding. I’m dying. I know it.
Thoughts mixed with fear clouded his judgment.
His mind kept repeating his fate as if it should convince him to reconsider his course. He’d rather the vultures pick his bones clean than give in to the bastards hunting him.
He rode harder.
He rode faster.
The posse was close enough to be heard but far enough to be lost, which was what Jeremiah was counting on by choosing such rocky, uncharted terrain. If he crossed out of Arkansas into Oklahoma he could get lost in the gold mining towns near the foothills of the mountains.
“Yah! Yah!” Jeremiah yelled.
He kicked his heels harder, forcing the horse to pound grass and earth. He leaned in for the speed, as he wheezed through the torment splitting his side. Two lawmen and a banker were dead, but not that bastard Shepherd. He was sure their deaths would all be put on him. He was an innocent man. But who would believe him with bags of the bank’s gold strapped to his horse? Who would believe this was a ride for justice?
It’s for you, Pa, Ma, Mary, and James. This is for you.
Jeremiah grunted with clenched teeth as he galloped toward freedom.
Along a moonlit riverbank a horse stopped to lap at the cool water rippling over the rocky shore. On his back slumped the unconscious Jeremiah Polk.
The horse paced the river then stopped under the pale moon, weary from their journey. Jeremiah slumped to the left and eventually dropped off the animal to his back. He released a groan of agony before pain and delirium drove him deeper into an unconscious state. His body had given in to dehydration and exhaustion several hours ago. What was left of him rolled into the overgrown bush to die.
Annabelle wiped her sweaty brow with the back of her hand. She gathered up the long hem of her skirt and tied it in a knot just above the knee. She waded into Buck Creek, careful of each step. The creek’s current flowed south out of the headwaters of the Kiamichi River. It provided the life force that helped the small town of Nicademus thrive. Prospectors, freed slaves, natives: many had found refuge and prosperity in Nicademus.
Lifting the pail she stepped over the smooth rocks and into the river, stopping when the water reached her knees. Her bucket submerged. Naturally her gaze lifted when the sound of rustling leaves caught her ear. The emerald green sweet grass had grown pretty tall this year. Its slender blades swayed with the wind. She caught the flight of several birds lifting from the trees, and heard the distinct buzzing chirps of beetle-bugs and crickets in the meadow.
No sign of danger. Still, a girl like her had to be cautious of bears and wolves, though. Last year Matilda was attacked and mauled not too far from her land.
In order to be safe Annabelle kept her five-shot Colt Patterson revolver tucked in the front waistband of her long skirt. She had lifted the weapon off a dead ranger who while drunk fell into the creek and drowned. A dead man’s gun was said to be bad luck. Well it had proved the opposite for her. His bad luck was her good fortune.
Annabelle submerged the bucket deeper in the rippling waves and listened for the rustling again. There was only the breeze combing through the trees and tickling the waves of the creek.
It would be heaven to undress and slip under the greenish-blue waters for her morning swim, but Ms. Kitty would send for her soon. And there was another reason for caution. Nicademus was nestled between White Rock Mountain and Horsehead Mountain. The woodsy terrain out of Oklahoma led an open path straight into Arkansas. Outlaws and boomers had often stumbled on their town when lost. Ms. Kitty’s rule was that the girls never spent too much time down by the river alone, and they never bathed or swam in its waters without two or more to join. That meant trips to the river could only be done in pairs. Annabelle, however, didn’t always obey the rules.
Bringing up the pail with both hands she trekked back out of the water, leaving thoughts of frivolity behind. It was then that a spark from something shiny caught her attention. Annabelle lowered her haul to avoid any spill. Her vision narrowed on where the bushes thickened. The sun had hit something that gleamed brighter than polished silver. There in the shade she recognized the buckle of a man’s boot.
“Well I’ll be,” she said, drying her hands on the front of her dress. “What we got here?”
Curious, Annabelle removed her Colt. It could be Dillon the town drunk, taking a rest under her tree. Or it could be a boomer who had fallen asleep after stopping to visit and fill his canteen at the creek. She held the gun pointed south as she stepped closer, then stopped halfway. It was a man’s boot, spurs and all, connected to a leg, and the leg was connected to a waist. A horse neighed in the thicket just a few hundred feet beyond, and Annabelle nearly fired a shot into the ground. It startled her so.
The horse stepped out of the clearing and fixed its dark eyes on her. What a beautiful animal it was. Annabelle’s last horse had died only two months ago. She wanted this one, bad.
Her attention returned to the stranger.
Is he dead
She circled the man to get a better look at him. He lay on his back with his head turned. His chest rose and fell only slightly thanks to his shallow breathing.
He was definitely alive
. Annabelle raised her gun when she noticed around his waist he had two irons holstered on his belt.
Just what she needed,
an unconscious white man in her creek
Last one she found brought the consequences of the marshals into their town. Damn near started another civil war until the doc said the fool had drank his belly full and drowned.
She glanced around and wondered if there were more men.
“I oughta just leave him,” she stepped back voicing her thoughts to the wind.
The cowboy moaned. His face turned again to give her a clearer view of him. Annabelle frowned. His face was covered in hair, a scraggly dirty blond beard that hung past his neck. He had a mustache so thick it covered his lips, and unruly eyebrows and hair. She could barely see him beneath the dirt, dried blood, and sunburnt face. His hat lay over to the left of him and even from a distance she knew he stank of life in the outdoors. He looked like he’d been on his own for quite some time.
He looked dangerous
Annabelle sucked in her bottom lip. She thought on it hard and long. Finally it was decided. A cured white man sent on his way was easier to deal with than a dead one by the river.
Annabelle pondered it for another moment with her hands to her hips. She faced the grueling task of moving a man twice her weight and well over her height. The daunting task would be done a
ll by her lonesome, and half a mile too
Then another thought popped into her head.
She glanced back over at the animal. Untying the hem of her skirt she hurried after it. Clucking her tongue as Red Sun would do, she coaxed the animal to come her way. It did. The horse was a magnificent creature, healthy, with a shiny brown spotted coat. She grabbed the reins and rubbed the bridge of his nose, giving him a kiss of thanks for being so gentle.
“Good baby … sweet baby.”
Returning to the fallen stranger she and the horse stood over him. She let go of the reins and went to her knees in front of the man. “Can you hear me, mister?”
He moaned and mumbled something unintelligible. Hesitant at first, but compelled by the way he sweated and breathed so hollowly, her heart was touched with pity. Annabelle’s first order of business was to take his guns. She did so immediately. She then reached down and let her fingers brush his face. He was burning with fever. She didn’t initially uncover the reason, but her eyes roamed over his body, hoping it wasn’t a sickness like cholera. An outbreak could kill every man, woman, and child in town. She wiped her hand on the front of her dress as fear seized her. The contagion could have leapt on her just from standing too close. She stood upright and the man moved, rolling a bit to his right. It was then that his vest parted in the front and revealed the blood stains on his side.
“Oh? You been shot?” she said curiously. She fastened his gun belt around her waist. Now she had three guns.
“Where you come from?” she asked, shaking her head in disgust.
He groaned this time in response. “Well no time for talking about it, let’s get you up.” She took hold of his wrists and pulled. The man was heavy as iron. Annabelle blew a sigh up out of her mouth with her top lip tucked in.
“Get up I say!” she pulled with all her might, digging the heels of her feet into the moist earth. “UP!” she grunted.
Again the stranger groaned, but this time he found the strength to obey. He lifted. “Your choice, I can leave you here for the buzzards or you can help me,” she wheezed. She forced him to rise and stand. He did, but fell forward on her. Annabelle was nearly brought down to the ground. She put her back into it and held him upright. Working at Ms. Kitty’s, she had had to help Jacob several nights with disposing of a drunk out of one of the girls’ rooms. Ms. Kitty’s rule was you stay you pay. And she meant it. Once a customer’s pocket was empty, so was the Blue Moon’s hospitality. So yes, she could handle standing up a man twice her size. She put his arm around her shoulder to encourage him to help and then walked him stiffly to the stallion.
“Can you hear me, mister?” she asked, and his head rolled. She thought somewhere in between he gave her a nod.
“Good e’nuff, here’s the strap. Go on … get on up there,” she said. She tried to help him mount. He didn’t have the strength. But she didn’t give up easily. Leaning him into the horse she put his foot in the stirrup, and that’s when she got a real good look at the saddle: leather bound with iron bits, it was too fancy for this vagabond lifestyle. It had to be stolen.