Rough Stones

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. This is a sequel to the story "Blood Trail" in So Much Fer Easy #2.

Darwell returns to finish what he began in "Bloody Trail," and Vin seems willing to play into the man's hands. But Chris and Buck aim to see to it that it doesn't happen, but Darwell is slippery and he leads the men on a chase that mighht just cost Vin is life anyway.


Vin gathered up his bloodstained clothes and rolled them into a bundle. He should just leave them with Jake and tell him to burn them, but was reluctant to do so. Maybe he just didn't want to leave any part of himself in Purgatorio, didn't want to leave a blood trail for Darwell to follow.

He heard Jake's footsteps and kept on packing even when the door opened and he felt Jake's presence at his back.

"You going somewhere, compadre?"

"Me an' the boys 're headin' back to Four Corners. Seems like there ain't no reason t' hang around waitin' fer Darwell t' come after me."

"You will kill yourself, Vincente."

Vin turned and gave Jake a half-smile. "Naw, I got too many other fellers after my hide t' do myself in. B'sides, I reckon Chris an' Buck wouldn't let that happen." He slung his bundle over his shoulder, wincing as his injured muscles protested the motion. His smile softened. "I- I ain't never had that, Jake." He seemed almost ashamed by that admission. "'Cept mebbe them years I's in Texas after the warwith you an' Perdita-" He stopped, shook his head. "I'll be goin' now, Jake. Thanks fer what ya done - you and Carmela."

Jake nodded. "I will tell her."

"I cain't pay fer-"

"You have paid me." Jake pressed a familiar object into Vin's hand.

Vin looked down at the silver dollar he had drilled with a bullet a long time ago. "One a' these days y' ain't gonna be able t' give it back."

"On the day we are both dead, amigo." Jake held out his hand; he would have enveloped Vin in an embrace, but he already looked about ready to break in two, as slight and vulnerable as a stalk of prairie grass in a windstorm. But that grass had deep roots and hardy stems. Jake never doubted that Vin would survive. The soil might be nothing more than rough stones, but he'd be all right, anchored in the friendship of the seven men who had found each other. "Vaya con Dios," Jake said. He set a warm hand on Vin's shoulder.

"Y tu, mi amigo."

A short while later, Jake watched from the door to the cantina as three men rode out of town, their hats tipped low over their faces, their weapons in full view. The two taller riders bracketed the slim man between them, their unyielding spines speaking of resolve and protection, no matter the cost.

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

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