More Than Meets the Eye(9)

By: Karen Witemeyer


Logan arched a sardonic brow. “And here I thought you weren’t the superstitious sort.”

“Scoff if you like, mister, but you’ll see what I mean if you stick around long enough. Get those eyes trained on you, and you’ll change your tune. See if you don’t.”

Logan didn’t care about some girl with mismatched eyes. He cared about Zacharias Hamilton. Although, if Hamilton was claiming this girl as his sister, Logan might be able to use that to his advantage somehow. His honor wouldn’t permit him to threaten her in any physical way, but if Hamilton had an emotional tie to the female, she might be a weakness Logan could exploit.

A good card player used every weapon at his disposal to win, only two of which were the actual cards and the chips in the pot. Rattling one’s opponent with a few well-placed barbs, using the hint of a grin to sell a bluff, complimenting a player who took a round through sheer luck on his exceptional skill in order to elicit overconfidence on the next hand—they were all strategies of emotional warfare. Strategies Logan had honed to a razor’s edge.

He pulled a coin from his trouser pocket and tossed it onto the bar. “Thanks for the coffee and the conversation.”

“Leavin’ already?” Dunn bristled. “Ya ain’t even finished your brew.”

“I’ll be back.” Logan winked. The barkeep might have the manners of a cockroach, but his information was solid. Best to keep him an ally for now. “I got a bit of a ride ahead of me. Time to get after it. But I hope to sample some of your other entertainments before too long.”

“Ah.” Dunn gave him a knowing grin. He nodded toward the redhead on stage. “Like what you see in Arabelle, huh? She may not have the best set of pipes in the county, but her set of—”

“I was thinking of the tables,” Logan interrupted. Good grief. The last thing he needed was a female in his way, complicating his mission and causing trouble. Unfortunately, the scantily clad Arabelle must have had ears like an owl, for she was clambering off the stage and heading his way with disconcerting haste.

Tugging his hat back down over his scarred eye, Logan straightened away from the bar. “Catch up with you later, Dunn.” He offered a wave in parting as he stretched his stride, choosing speed over swagger. At this juncture, self-preservation outranked image.

Once the saloon doors safely swung closed behind him, Logan relaxed. But only for a moment. His mind cranked through the new information he’d gained and what it might mean.

He unhitched his horse and mounted in a smooth motion while his brain churned. Hamilton wasn’t acting as Logan had expected. He’d need to modify his timetable, adjust his plans. Learn the man’s habits and ferret out his weaknesses.

So be it. Logan wouldn’t blow his chance to achieve justice for his father by getting in a hurry. He was willing to play the long game.

He clicked his tongue at Shamgar and headed off at a trot. Time to investigate the homestead. He might have bought the property as bait to lure Hamilton into a high-stakes game, but it would serve equally well as a place to conduct reconnaissance.

Hamilton wouldn’t remain a mystery for long.





2


“Don’t you dare bring that pig into this house!”

Evangeline Hamilton halted her arm mid-pull, leaving the back door halfway open. Busted. She swore Seth had eyes in the back of his head and ears everywhere else. Zach might be the Hamilton sibling who intimidated everyone outside of the family, but Seth was the dictator at home.

“He’s clean,” Evangeline cajoled. She’d bathed the mud off Hezekiah just a few minutes ago. He loved cool baths in the summer, and even she wouldn’t dare bring him inside covered in mud. Mainly because she would be the one cleaning up whatever mess Hezzy made.

“I don’t care.” Seth’s singsong voice was deceptively pleasant, but it carried a steel undertone.

She could usually sweet-talk Zach into giving her what she wanted, but Seth was a harder sell. Probably because Seth had been the one left behind to watch her while Zach took whatever odd jobs he could find to keep them fed in those lean years after the train wreck. That meant Seth knew all her tricks.

Evangeline quirked her lips. Well, not all her tricks.

“I just need to grab Hezzy’s bow. I left it in my room.” She never took Hezekiah out without his bow. The bright red ribbon was the hog’s only defense against would-be hunters.

After Zach had nearly shot Hezzy last fall, her elder brother had demanded that she either find a way to label the critter or keep him penned full-time. The bow had been the best compromise she’d been able to conceive. Not the most masculine of attire, but Hezekiah didn’t seem to mind. Not if it meant accompanying her on her afternoon jaunts. The hog hated to be left behind. He’d holler and ram the fence, breaking Evangeline’s heart with his desperation to be free.