Texas Redemption(132)

By: Linda Broday


Things turned into chaos at the bottom when Vallens suddenly darted from sight. The man hid, ready to pounce. Added to that, Taft lowered his hands. His body shielded them. What seemed a good plan at the onset shifted in hindsight.

She shoved the cold metal into his spine. “I will kill you.”

“You sure you know what you’re doing, Lil? Don’t reckon you ever shot a man before.”

“With you it’ll be awful easy to remedy that.”

Taft cleared the steps, leaving Laurel on the last one.

“Zeke, why don’t you show Lil our trump card?”

The death angel raised the wick on the oil lamp and held it toward a bound, gagged female.

A cry sprang from her lips. “Hannah!”

Taft’s hoarse laugh pierced the air. “Give me that pea shooter or your sister’s brains will spatter the walls.”

Laurel’s arm sagged. She’d pretty much lived her life, but Hannah and Adeline were young. Banking that Taft had too much at stake to damage his goods didn’t reassure her enough to take that gamble.

Taft’s fist caught her mouth the moment he took her pistol. She slammed to the floor. The metallic taste of blood wasn’t something a person forgot the taste of. Hate crawled from the dark corners of her soul.

“You rotten piece of cow manure!”

“What a pity. I went to enormous trouble arranging this little tea party and you haven’t the slightest gratitude.”

The sinister mouth with its taunting sneer leaned too near Laurel.

She aimed the wad of spit just right. It hit him squarely and ran down the bridge of his nose. Her bold impulse earned her a kick that brought stars. But seeing the smug veneer slip made it worth the glimpse of a dented, bent halo Laurel would surely wear up there when she joined Ollie.

Her breath came in short gasps. “I have friends.”

“Zeke, explain why poor Curley Madison can’t come to her aid.”

Vallens shifted his hold on Hannah. “Madison feels a mite poorly at the moment. Taft arranged the fight at the saloon and made sure the saloon-keep was out of the way.”

Perhaps that didn’t translate to dead. She prayed it didn’t. Outsmarting them was up to her. One thing about it, they’d have hell getting Hannah, Adeline, and her to St. Louis. Taft had better rethink his plan. No swamp scum would soil Hannah and Adeline. She’d stop him somehow.

Blocking pain that hurt to blink, she struggled to her feet. “No one will pay a red cent to lie with a corpse.”

“Silly twit, I have fresh merchandise. You’re expendable. In fact, you’ll make a prime example for those who think to escape my clutches,” Taft sneered.

“Except it’s a long way to Missouri,” she needled.

“We ain’t going anywhere with you.” Adeline launched herself onto Taft’s back, raking her nails across his face.

Laurel fingered the knife in her pocket, eyeing the two men. She had just one chance.

But once she buried the knife in Vallens, could she get to the pistol fast enough?





Thirty-two


Brodie Yates broke formation, spurring the loaned horse into a hard gallop. If this nag possessed Smokey’s long gait, he’d not have doubts circling his head like vultures. Cold sweat dotted his brow. The half-dozen men who ate his dust could sway the odds.

They had to beat Taft and Vallens.

Thanks to Citizens for Peace, General Buell deemed him a free man. Brodie wanted no part of staying in the stockade until morning, and the general had no desire to test President Grant’s patience.

Sheer terror they’d be too late booted off the devil’s scorn that usually shared his saddle.

This night it would have to find its own way. If it dared.

Which brought his intelligence into question. If he had some, he’d be riding in the opposite direction instead of riding hell-bent for Redemption. Buell would be after his head when he discovered the document was a forgery.

But Laurel was in danger. His gut never lied.

He had to keep her safe or die trying.

The memory bag Brodie snatched off Buell’s desk molded to the warmth of his skin. It still held each treasured item.

Something Murphy said bumped across the ridges of his conscience. Never let a woman who lights up the dark, lonely places of your soul go.