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.
Horse thieves are making life difficult for ranchers and farmers near Four Corners, so the Seven are looking to round them up. But when Vin returns, battered and bloody, their attention shifts from the thieves to the injured tracker, that is until the horse thieves make off with Tanner's beloved black gelding, Peso.
Determined to get his horse back, without or without the help of the others, Vin heads out on the trail of the thieves. But Chris and the others cannot let an injured Vin take on the thieves alone, and it's a good thing, too, because the outlaws are led by a ruthless man who wants nothing more than to break Peso, and the seven peacekeepers who guard the range he covets.
Chris didn't like the younger man's pallor, didn't like the strain in his eyes or the tightness around his mouth, didn't like at all his seeming fragility. As much as he fumed at and cursed the tracker's stubborn toughness, his mulish tenacity and sheer grit, he realized now how much he depended on them, how much reassurance he took from them. It bothered him deeply to realize that the man he considered as sturdy and enduring as an oak was, in reality, as frail as any other man.
As he was himself.
And there was, he knew, only one way to bring back the Tanner he preferred. "Think you can get around enough to find anything," he challenged lazily, "or you want t' sit down and let JD do your work?"
Vin raised his head sharply at that, narrowing his eyes and scowling at the older man. "Don't need nobody doin' m' work," he snapped, stung by the insinuation of uselessness. "Hell, I might be hurtin', but I'm still twice the tracker he is, 'n' four times the tracker you'll ever be!"
Larabee shrugged lightly. "If you say so," he answered evenly, concealing his smile at the flame that leaped into the pained blue eyes.
"#@!* you!" Vin growled, pushing past the gunfighter and limping toward the remains of the camp, all the while sweeping the ground with his keen gaze.
Buck came up to Chris, grinning and shaking his head. "You know, pard, one 'a these days he's gonna catch on t' you, then he's gonna carve you int' strips with that knife 'a his."
"But not today," Chris said, smiling with satisfaction as he watched Tanner settle into a crouch and study the ground with intense concentration. "Not today."
106 pages. $10 for PDF version with color cover.
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