A Magnificent Seven gen novel by Joan Curtin, set in the Old West and with lots of hurt-comfort. NOTE! This story has appeared, or is currently available, on-line.
Stagecoaches are being robbed and passengers killed. The Seven are brought in to help track down those responsible, but the danger is much closer to home than they suspect. And Vin is having trouble with ghosts from his past.
134 pages. $10 for PDF version with color cover.
Chris folded his long body and sat next to Vin. "You solved the problems of the world?"
Vin shook his head. "Hell, no, but I know what I gotta do. And seein' as there ain't no way around it, frettin's only gonna tie me up in knots. Cain't afford that."
Chris heard the steely resolve underlying those soft words, and understood. Any man who'd ever faced the eve of battle had to know that in order to live. The learning came hard, though, and as he looked down at Vin's tranquil face, he wondered how old Tanner had been during that war. Surely not more than seventeen or eighteen. When he was seventeen, he'd been smokin' behind his pa's barn, and finding out the difference between boys and girls. That was a long way from sighting down the barrel of a rifle aimin' to kill a man. He'd been walking a hard road to hell before he went off to war, and his fighting had been on the open field of battle, not in the shadows of darkness and stealth.
Vin met his curious gaze, wondering what Larabee was thinking. "Y' might as well ask it, pard," he said. "Git it off yer mind."
"How good are you, Vin?"
The blue eyes widened, amusement floating for a moment before the shielding lashes came down. "Y' seen me shoot, Chris.
"Ain't the same thing, pardner. And you know it."
The wind tossed light strands of Tanner's long hair, and he sat up drawing his knees close to his chest. He looked off toward the south, those far-seeing eyes focused on some distant point that Chris wasn't even sure existed. "Colonel who picked me out, said I was the most natural hunter he ever seen. I's proud 'a that, Chris. Ain't nobody ever said I's special b'fore. Well, least not since m' granddaddy died," he amended with a soft sigh. "An' I was fool enough t' believe it. Thought it meant somethin' t' be the best. Shit, all it meant was I c'd kill a man without flinchin'. Don't know t' this day how many I kilt, b'fore I was caught and sent t' prison."
"Vin..." Chris regretted asking the question. But before he could offer an apology, Tanner took up speaking.
"Never wanted t' be like that again, Chris. Never thought I'd hafta, 'til now. Seems kinda funny, don't it? It ain't like I haven't kilt anybody since, 'r won't ever again. I been fightin' it ever since I figgered Harper out. No sense in fightin' it no more." He dropped his head on his folded arms.
Chris looked at that bent head, those bowed shoulders and hated Roche for opening up the wounds of the past and making Vin bleed out his pain drop by drop. There was no comfort he could offer; that sort of healing could only come from within, and if Chris could figure that one out, then he'd be feeling a lot better than he was now.
After a minute, Vin lifted his head and squinted up at the sun. "We'd best git a move on, Larabee."
Seemed Vin had figured it out, all on his own. Chris stood up and held out his hand. "C'mon, partner. Let's ride."
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