Devil's Bargain

A Magnificent Seven gen novel by SueN, set in the Old West and with lots of hurt-comfort. NOTE! This story has appeared, or is currently available, on-line.

When the Army arrives in Four Corners, looking for a tracker, Vin find himself thrown back into a nightmare he had hoped he'd buried long before. And that nightmare only gets worse as the Seven are drawn deeper and deeper into it, and Tanner himself is forced to relive it for a second time. But living though hell can sometimes be too much for any man, and Vin's been pushed to the very edge in mind, body and soul.

Excerpt:

Vin shook his head and groaned sickly. Chris didn't understand, and he didn't have the words to make him. He couldn't think of the words, not with all them damn screams in his head.

Chris closed his eyes, drew a deep breath and, despising himself for it, uttered the one threat he had left. "I'll put you in jail if I have to, Vin," he said harshly, the words tasting like bile in his mouth. "So help me, if I don't get your word, I'll drag you kickin' and screamin' and lock you in that damn cage and keep you in there until we come back. I figure it'd probably kill both of us, but I'd rather do that than see you turn murderer over the likes of Ford." He tried not to flinch as Vin moaned and fixed haunted eyes on him. "Please, Vin, don't make me do that. Just give me your word you won't kill him. That's all I need."

Vin stared at Larabee for long moments, thrown into a cold, black panic at the thought of being locked up in a cell. He could almost feel the walls closing in on him, could feel the absence of light, of air, of freedom. "Why's he matter so much t' you?" he demanded in a strained and shaking voice.

Chris sighed sadly. "He doesn't matter a lick t' me, Vin. But you do. Maybe he does deserve to die, I don't know. But you don't deserve what killin' him would do to you. You're not a murderer; you don't have that in you. And I'm not about to let you turn yourself into somethin' you're not. I won't let you ruin yourself that way."

Vin flinched violently at that, as Chris's faith in him rubbed like sandpaper against the raw wound of his soul. He needed Ford to die. God, he needed it! But he also needed Chris to believe in him.

Lord God, he never should've come back to town, never should've left the pool. He should've stayed where he could hold his two worlds in balance. Now they were about to collide, and there was nothing he could do to stop it.

"I won't kill him," he groaned at last, the words torn from him against his will. "I give y' my word."

Chris released the breath he had been holding as relief coursed through him. Without thinking, he reached out and pushed the sweat-matted hair out of Vin's face, stunned by the deathly pallor and sick despair he saw there. "You understand why we have t' do this, don'tcha?" he asked anxiously.

Vin dropped his gaze from his friend's face and stared at the floor, seeing only blood-soaked ground in its place. "No," he whispered faintly. "I don't." He swallowed weakly and winced at the pain of making a decision he hated beyond all measure. "But I won't stop y'. I can't fight ya." He closed his eyes and his whole body sagged. "I'm too tired t' fight anybody."

140 pages. $10 for PDF version with color cover.


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