Shuffle of Angel’s Feet…

jeans

 

Shuffle of Angel’s Feet copyright c. 2014 T.A. Chase

Part Six-

“Ansel, old man, you have gotten yourself into a bit of a spot again,” Ansel muttered to himself as he stared at the four men sitting with him at the poker table. He slowly set his cards down in front of him then stood just as slowly, not making any moves toward the gun at his hip. “I didn’t realize the time. I should be getting to bed. Must rise early and all that, you know.”

He gathered what he’d used to stake himself in the game from his winnings, leaving the rest on the table. Not taking it all was probably the best idea. Hopefully, they’d let him take that. Of course, from the way they were glaring at him and the silence coming from the saloon around him, Ansel knew he was going to be lucky to get out of there alive. Maybe they would just beat his arse, which had happened before and he could deal with that.

But Ansel had learned that these Americans tended to be far more violent than his British peers. They were less likely to be talked out of their anger, and he had been doing his best not to piss any of them off. Yet it seemed like he’d done something to upset them.

“Maybe you shouldn’t come back here,” one of the card players said. “We don’t like cheaters here.”

Cheaters! Ansel took a deep breath, about to protest being called that when a hand landed on his shoulder and gripped him tight. He shut his mouth, wondering who stood behind him. Whoever it was obviously intimidated the others because Ansel could see fear in their eyes.

“I’m sure you didn’t mean to insult the man, Thompson. I won’t tell you to apologize, if you let him leave without bothering him. And I mean at all. At no time while this man is in town will you—or any of your cronies—say a word to him.”

He managed not to shiver at the deep drawl and warm breath close to his ear. Ansel gave a mental eye roll. Get a hold of yourself, man. If any of them knew what you were thinking, they’d shoot you where you stand.

“Of course, Ramsey. We were just joshin’. He can go.” Thompson didn’t meet Ansel’s gaze, keeping his on Ramsey like a rabbit staring at a snake.

Ansel stuffed his winnings in his pockets and nodded to the men. He bit his bottom lip, not wanting to say anything that might make these men change their mind in spite of Ramsey being there. As he stepped back, the presence behind him yielded, letting him move away from the table.

Once he felt he was far enough away, he turned to look at his savior. Ramsey was several inches taller than Ansel and his shoulders were broad, making Ansel feel rather scrawny and pathetic next to him. He couldn’t tell what color the man’s hair was because of the black hat he wore, but his eyes were the clearest blue Ansel had ever seen. His skin was tanned dark as though he spent a lot of time out under the sun.

Most of the men Ansel met out west had the same hard look. They were trying to carve a civilized world out of a wilderness and while Ansel didn’t agree with them about their treatment of the natives, he understood the way they worked hard and played harder. He’d hunkered down in his room in towns when the cowhands had come to spend their wages, hooting and hollering, firing their guns in the air. He’d even relieved some of those hands of their money from time to time.

“I believe I owe you a drink,” he said softly.

Ramsey’s intense study of his face caused Ansel to fidget with his jacket sleeves. His lips thinned and Ansel figured he’d tell him no thanks. It was a rejection he was used to, considering he did stand out as a green horn. His derby hat, well cut suit and accent spoke of a strange land and they all knew he wasn’t a cowhand. Most of them assumed he wasn’t a gun hand either, and he wanted them to continue to believe that.

They walked through a cloud of cigar smoke that Ansel inhaled before he realized. It triggered the illness in his lungs and he began to cough. Hurriedly, he pulled a handkerchief from his pocket to press against his lips. He waved away Ramsey as the man reached out for him.

Moving as quickly as he could without shoving anyone out of the way, Ansel stumbled from the saloon into the middle of the street. He tried his best to inhale, filling his lungs with fresh air. It wouldn’t get rid of the disease eating away at his insides, but it would clear the smoke out of them and ease the coughing for a little while.

“Consumption?”

He jerked around. Ramsey stood at the edge of the sidewalk, body propped up by the one of the posts. His arms were folded over his chest which seemed to strain the fabric of his shirt.

Ansel tore his gaze away. Don’t get caught staring, old man. You’re dying, but you don’t want to go sooner than you have to.

Shaking his shoulders and coughing a few more seconds, he straightened and moved the cloth from his mouth. Checking it in the moonlight, he was thrilled to see there weren’t any drops of blood on it.

“I was in New York with my brother,” he started quietly. “He’d finally found an heiress who would marry him and save our family estate. I’d had lungs problems before in England. It’s so damnably damp over there. It seemed to get worse in New York. Probably because of the coal dust in the air.” He paused.

Ramsey grunted as though he were listening and wanted Ansel to continue.

So he did. “The doctor I visited told me I should come out West. That the air is dryer out here and might be better for me.”

“You seem to be doing all right,” Ramsey commented.

“Yes.” But I’m so blasted alone and lonely out here. A fish out of water in so many ways.

Happy Thursday

federer

 

The US Open is on and I thought I’d share with you one of the photos my husband took during the London Olympics in 2012. (He was there for work)

I was gone all day yesterday, so I wasn’t able to get the third installment of Shuffle done. But I’ll be working on it today as soon as I get back from taking my cats to the vet. Annual check up for them. They won’t be thrilled with me that’s for sure.

I hope you all have a great Thursday.

 

Shuffle of Angel’s Feet…

jeans

 

Shuffle of Angel’s Feet copyright c. 2014 T.A. Chase

Part Five-

Job jolted up in the bed when someone pounded on the door of his room. He ran his hands through his hair as he called out, “What the hell?”

“There’s food on the table. Get your ass out of bed, Job. I’m done waiting on your lazy ass. I want to talk to you,” Travis yelled through the door.

“Fuck you,” he shouted back as he climbed out from under the sheet. “I’ll be out in a minute.”

“You got clean clothes or something? I don’t want to see your bare ass around the kitchen. Lose my appetite.”

He listened as Travis stomped away. Job splashed his face with some cool water, slicked his hair back and dug through his saddlebags to find a less dirty shirt and pants. Frowning, he realized there wasn’t anything in them.

“What the hell?” he muttered.

Another knock and he turned when the door open. Eagle threw a shirt and pants at him.

“Here. Rosita washed these so you had something tonight. The rest of your clothes will be done tomorrow.”

Eagle left, shutting the door behind him. Job didn’t have the time to say anything. He quickly got dressed, shoved his feet into his boots then headed to the kitchen where he heard voices.

Standing just outside of the room, he studied the people in it. He never entered any place without assessing every occupant and every exit. It was a safety measure he found worked for him. Not that he thought anything bad would happen to him in his cousin’s house, but it didn’t pay to be careless.

“Are you coming in here or just hang out in the hallway, spying?” Eagle asked from where he sat at the table.

While he hadn’t made a sound—that he knew of—Job wasn’t surprised the Indian knew he was there. Kerry and Travis were in there as well, along with an elderly Mexican lady. That must be Rosita. Nice to see they aren’t going it alone out here. Not sure if either of them can cook.

He stalked in and tipped his head to the lady. “Ma’am.”

“This is Rosita. Her husband, Jose, works with the cattle.” Travis introduced them. “Rosita, this is my cousin, Job Ramsey.”

The lady nodded to him, but didn’t say anything. Job assumed she didn’t know much English, so he tried out his Spanish on her and smiled when her face lit up.

“You guys need to learn some Spanish, so she don’t feel so alone here,” he told the men as he dropped into a chair at the table. He thanked her when she brought him a cup of coffee.

“How the hell did you learn Mexican?” Kerry sounded a little put out that Rosita didn’t serve him.

“It’s Spanish and I worked over the border with some vaqueros a few years back. Learned some of their language while I was there.” Job sipped the hot liquid as he studied the others over the rim.

“You travel all over the place, don’t you?” Eagle said as he helped Rosita set the platters of meat and bowls of food on the table.

Shrugging, Job grabbed a biscuit off one of the plates. “Got no place to hang my hat. Don’t see the point in staying in one place with strangers. It’s a big world out there, my friend. Why not see what I can of it before I die?”

Eagle snorted. “I just think you’ve got wanderlust. Someday you’ll find some reason to stay somewhere. I can’t wait to see what that reason ends up being.”

“Why are you still here?” Job glanced over at Kerry. “I thought you’d have gone home to Texas.”

“Don’t have any reason to go back there. The others can take care of the ranch. They don’t need me around.” Kerry shrugged like Job had. “I like it here. Travis and Eagle listen to me when I have something to say. They might not agree, but at least they let me talk to them.”

It had to be hard to be a younger brother at times. Job wouldn’t really know because he left home when he was sixteen and had never dealt with his family since then.

“Eagle told me about what you did for that girl. I’m sure Barking Dog and his people appreciate it.”

Job finished filling his plate and took a few bites before he answered. “Gave me a horse to replace the one I lost. He didn’t have to do that.”

“Yeah, he did.” Eagle shot him a look. “Laughing Brook is set to become his eldest son’s wife soon. He owes you more than just a horse for doing that.”

“Huh. Didn’t know that. He didn’t say anything. Not that I would’ve taken anything else from him. Just doing what I saw needed to be done. She wouldn’t have lasted much longer with those men.” Job cut out a bite of meat. “Got there before they could do anything to her except smack her around a little.”

“Good, but not every white man would’ve helped her,” Eagle informed him.

“Well, most men are bastards, Eagle. I’m surprised you didn’t know that.” He smirked over at the Indian.

“Shut up. What the hell were you coming here for? We haven’t seen you for over a year and suddenly you show up.” Travis glared at him.

Job ate a few more bites before pushing his plate away from him. He propped his elbows on the table and stared out the window for a moment. “I got a message from Calbert Ramsey.”

“How’s that?”

“One of our daddies’ cousins by marriage, I think. He’s in a spot of trouble over Santa Fe way.”

“Why didn’t he send me the message?” Travis frowned.

“Don’t know. Don’t really care. I’m on my way over there, but thought I’d stop to let you know what’s going on.” He caught the glance between Travis and Eagle. “I don’t expect you to come with me, Travis. You’ve got a home here now. It’s not your job to help out the rest of the family.”

“Remember when one of us in trouble, all of us come,” Kerry said.

Shuffle of Angel’s Feet….

jeans

 

Shuffle of Angel’s Feet copyright c. 2014 T.A. Chase

Part Four-

Maybe he shouldn’t think like that. Job knew a lot of people who would do their level best to kill Eagle and Travis for what they were to each other. Of course, they’d also want to take Job out behind the woodshed and kick the shit out of him as well. He hadn’t done much with the attraction that seemed to simmer inside him at times.

Job wasn’t about to try anything that would end up getting him killed. It might be the reason why he traveled alone out in the middle of the wilderness, interacting with as few people as possible. Not even Indians if he could avoid them.

“You can sleep in here.” Eagle opened the door to a small bedroom. “We added a couple of rooms onto the place. Travis’ brothers show up once in a while.”

Snorting, he walked past Eagle. “I bet you enjoy the hell out of those visits.”

Eagle shrugged. “They don’t matter to me, so no matter what they say, I ignore it. Most of the time, I head out to spend a week with Barking Dog and my mother.”

“Your brother says hi.” Job dropped his saddlebags on the floor next to the chair in the corner. He scrubbed his hand over his neck, grimacing at how gritty he felt.

“I’ll bring you some water and cloth. You can get some of the dirt off. Later tonight, we’ll bring the tub in and you can wash.” Eagle left.

Job sat on the edge of the mattress, not interested in anything except cleaning off a little. When Eagle returned, he watched as the man set the pitcher of water on the dresser.

“Is there a leatherworker in Bitter Creek?”

Eagle shot him a quick glance. “Actually yeah. Why?”

“Lost my saddle when my horse went down. Need to see about getting a new one made.”

“I’ll see if we have any extra ones that might work with your horse, then you can go on into town tomorrow. Check and see if he can make you one. If not, you can keep what we have until you get something else.” Eagle nodded before strolling out of the room.

Once the door shut behind him, Job began stripping off his shirt, pants and boots. He sneezed as a little cloud of dust rose from the clothes as he dropped them to the floor. Christ! I need to take a bath. Maybe I should just ride down to the creek and bath there before I nap. A yawn surprised him and he realized he probably wouldn’t make it without falling asleep on his horse. While he’d done that before, he certainly didn’t want to do it when he could just sleep on a soft mattress for the first time in months.

He poured out some water into the bowl then soaked the cloth for a few minutes. He appreciated that Eagle had warmed it up as he washed all over, rinsing the cloth out each time. By the time Job finished, he was feeling better.

Falling into the bed, he wiggled and shifted until he got the sheet pulled up to his hips then he sighed. Fuck! It’s been a long time since I’ve slept in a house and at a place where I feel safe enough to let it all go.

But he didn’t feel safe enough to not keep his gun right next to the bed. Even though he trusted Travis and Eagle to deal with any problems, he hadn’t survived this long without being careful.

His eyes drifted shut and Job didn’t fight the exhaustion sweeping over him.

 

“He’s looking rough, Travis,” Eagle said as he and Travis sat at the kitchen table, drinking some coffee and catching up before Travis headed back out to work with the men. “It’s more than just helping that girl get back to her people.”

Travis frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Job was moving like he was sore, and not just from sleeping on the ground. I went in to get his clothes for Rosita to wash and his back is covered with bruises.”

“He didn’t wake up when you were in there?”

Eagle shook his head. “Wasn’t like he even pretended to sleep. I know the difference in how a man breathes. He was dead to the world.”

Rubbing his chin, Travis narrowed his eyes as he thought. “I guess we’ll wait until he gets up, then we ask him what’s going on. He said he was heading our way when he ran across the girl and those bastards.”

“Right.”

“Makes me wonder why. Job doesn’t visit people, not even his own family back in Kentucky.” Travis pursed his lips, making Eagle want to lean across the table and kiss him. “I’m curious, but not enough to worry about it. Job will tell us exactly what he’s doing here when he wakes up.”

Eagle stood then moved over to where Travis sat, leaned down and pressed his lips to Travis’. They didn’t have time for more than a quick kiss, but Eagle couldn’t stop himself from tasting his lover’s lips just once before they went back to work.

Travis tangled his fingers in Eagle’s long hair, keeping him from moving away. Like Eagle was going to do that. He’d stay like that forever if he could, but he knew they had things to do and—other than Kerry—none of the men knew about them.

They broke apart and Eagle panted. He stepped away and Travis stood.

“We’ll continue that later tonight,” he promised and Eagle nodded. “We’ll talk to Job as well and see what’s going on with him.”

Eagle watched Travis stalk from the kitchen then he rinsed the mugs before going back outside to work with the horses. They were getting a reputation for well-trained mounts and Eagle wasn’t going to screw that up.

Kerry met him at one of the corrals. “Saw Job ride in. Looked rough.”

Eagle lifted one shoulder. “Yeah. He’s sleeping now. Don’t think he got any while he was on his way here.”

“Course not. He was out trying to save someone. He should’ve been the Ramseys’ Helper instead of Travis,” Kerry commented.

Not going to argue with that. Eagle held out his hand for the rope. “I want to work with the dun.”

“Yes, sir.” Kerry gave him a look to let him know the man understood that Eagle didn’t want to talk about it.

Manic Monday….

LosingSightTarget

 

For those of you who buy books at All Romance Ebooks, Losing Sight is available there now. Yay! Still not up at Amazon. Not sure why. But I’ll let you know. :)

I turned in a YA over the weekend, The Deepest Cut, and when I know anything about release dates and such, I’ll let you all know as well. It was going to be one big book, but I decided to split it into two smaller books. So the second book will be The Deepest Hope and I plan on working on it in Sept.

I have to change the title of my Amber Allure PAX contribution from Search & Rescue. Haven’t come up with a new title yet, but I should probably have one before I turn it in later this week…lol. :) That’s what I’ll be working on along with the three installments of Shuffle that I promised you. There will be one up tomorrow.

Well, I hope you all have a good Monday. I have to go for a run then come back and start writing. :)

Sorry…sorry….

I know I promised an installment today for Shuffle, but I didn’t get Barefoot Dancing done until late. By that time, my wrists and eyes hurt, so I went to bed.

I don’t have a looming deadline next week, so I’m going to give you three installments to make up for my appalling lack of consistency with my blog and my story lately.

But yay! The last Rags to Riches story, Barefoot Dancing, is complete and with my editor. I will say there might be other stories at some other point with some secondary characters, but right now, it’s a complete series. :) I hope you’ve enjoyed my rich guys and the men they fall in love with.

Next up is my Amber Allure book, Search & Rescue. I gave you a glimpse of it in a sneak peek. I hope to be able to sub that by the first of Sept. We’ll see.

Have a great weekend and I promise there will be 3 installments next week.

Hey…

My website was off line for most of the day, so I wasn’t able to post anything for Works in Progress. Also I wasn’t able to get Shuffle ready to be posted. As long as the server is still up, I’ll give you an installment on Friday for Shuffle.

I hope you have a good Thursday.

Shuffle of Angel’s Feet

jeans

 

Shuffle of Angel’s Feet copyright c. 2014 T.A. Chase

Part Three-

They stayed quiet as they rode, not wanting to draw attention to themselves. After about a half hour, Job started recognizing landmarks and knew they were close to Travis’ ranch. When Barking Dog halted the group, Job found they’d stopped at a fork in the trail.

“You know how to get to Eagle’s from here,” Barking Dog told him.

“Yes, sir. Thank you for helping out.” Job held out his hand and the brave shook it.

“Thank you for saving Laughing Brook.” Barking Dog let go of Job’s hand then motioned for the others to follow him.

Job waited until they disappeared before he headed in the other direction. He kept his gaze moving from one side to the other. It wasn’t that he thought there would be any dangerous, but Job hadn’t lived as long as he had by letting his guard down.

He brought his horse to a halt right before the crest of the hill that he knew was behind Travis’ main buildings. After dismounting, he ground tied the animal then took his time getting to the top of the hill. Hell, he wasn’t expecting trouble while visiting his cousin and maybe he was foolish for being so cautious. Job snorted. Nothing wrong with taking some care.

Propping his shoulder against a tree, he stared down into the valley. There were five buildings now instead of the two that Travis’ older brother, Ralph, had built before he was killed. There wee three corrals with horses milling around in them. Men were coming and going from the barns, plus riding out to the range where the cattle are kept.

Job saw someone step out onto the back porch, raising a hand in his direction before going back inside.

“Should’ve known Eagle would’ve spotted me,” Job muttered, returning to his mount.

Only a few of the men paused to watch him ride in from behind the ranch. Job didn’t doubt that there were others in the barns, rifles in hand to make sure they were ready in case Job wasn’t a friend. Considering how much trouble his cousin and Eagle had from the town in the beginning, Job wasn’t about to start thinking they were being paranoid or anything like that.

“Well look what the cat dragged in.” A man stepped from the biggest barn, rifle cradled in his arms.

Job grinned. “Kerry, you bastard. What the hell are you doing here?”

Kerry, one of Travis’s younger brothers, laughed. “I decided to stick around. Make sure Travis and Eagle have someone they can trust watching their back.”

“Plus it’s not like Michael would give you any important jobs to do.” Job swung down and shook Kerry’s hand. “And when Travis leaves for family things?”

“Either I go with him or Eagle does, and I get to be in charge here.” Kerry gripped Job’s hand hard before letting go. “Travis and Eagle are up at the big house.”

“Thanks.” Job glanced at his new horse. “Where should I put him?”

“Follow me.” Kerry whirled around, leading the way back to the barn he’d just left. “What happened to your saddle?”

“Lost my horse a couple miles back. Had to leave my saddle behind. At least I got a chance to get my shit.” He walked the horse into a stall before stripping the saddlebags and blankets from the gelding’s back.

Kerry studied the horse for a moment. “That looks like one of ours.”

“Ran into Eagle’s brother, Barking Dog, and he gave it to me.” Job ran a cloth over the horse’s body, rubbing him down.

“Must be an interesting story,” Kerry commented.

“Yeah. I’ll tell you about it later.” He threw his bags over his shoulder and nodded at Kerry before heading toward the house.

Job tapped his knuckles against the doorframe while peering into the kitchen. Eagle looked up from where he leaned against the sink.

“Come on in, Job.” Eagle strolled over to pour a mug of coffee then held it out to him. “Figured you’d want some.”

Letting the bags drop to the floor, Job reached for the mug. “Thanks, friend. Wasn’t able to have any this morning.”

“You rode in on one of Barking Dog’s horses. How did you run into him?” Eagle returned to his spot at the counter.

Job flopped into the chair at the table, taking one gulp of coffee before he answered, “I had a run in with some men who’d kidnapped a Comanche girl. Got the girl out then ran with them chasing us. My horse went down a day ago and I only had a chance to grab my saddlebags before we had to hide.”

Eagle tensed. “A girl? She okay?”

“Her name is Laughing Brook and while they’d beat her up a little, she’ll be fine. I stopped them from doing anything else. Your brother and his friends found us, gave me a horse, then brought me here.” Job scrubbed his hands over his face.

“Travis went into Bitter Creek for supplies. He’ll back later on tonight. Why don’t you wash up and rest a little bit? I’m sure you haven’t been able to get some shut eye while trying to get Laughing Brook somewhere safe.” Eagle motioned towards the hallway. “I’ll show you to a room.”

“I was bringing her here, but they cornered us in a cave in a canyon. Wasn’t sure how to get out, but she found a tunnel and Barking Dog was waiting for us.” He pushed to his feet, drank the rest of his coffee and picked up his bags. “Lead on, friend.”

Job kept his gaze on Eagle’s back, not wanting to get caught staring at the man’s backside. He knew how to keep his hands to himself, especially since Travis would kill him if he thought Job was even remotely interested in his fella. Oh Eagle was a good-looking man and it didn’t matter one bit to Job that he was a half-breed. Indians could be just as good or as bad as white folks.

But he never forgot how his cousin looked at Eagle during their fight with the ranchers and the other man who tried to kill them. Job wasn’t about to destroy Travis by trying to steal Eagle from him. Job snorted silently. Like Eagle would be interested in you anyway, jackass. He loves Travis and that’s all the man can see.

Now Available….

LosingSightTarget

 

Losing Sight of the Target is available now at Amber Allure. Click here. It’s part of the Winter Games PAX, so it’s on discount as well. :)  It’s not up at ARe and Amazon yet, but as soon as it is, I’ll post a link for you all.

I’m working on Shuffle and Barefoot today. I’ll get the next installment done and posted, then I’ll be working on Barefoot. I hope to get it done by the end of the week. :)

I hope you have a great day.

Shuffle of Angel’s Feet

jeans

 

Shuffle of Angel’s Feet copyright c. 2014 T.A. Chase

Part Two-

He had no way of knowing how long they’d been in the darkness before he saw a hint of light in the distance. He could also see the outline of the girl in front of him as well. Thank God. Wasn’t sure how much longer I’d be able to deal with feeling like I’ve been buried. His thankfulness disappeared when he stepped out into the sunlight and found himself surrounded by twenty Indians.

Narrowing his eyes while they adjusted to the light, he studied the men circling him. Job set his rifle down along with his saddlebags then held his hands up to show he meant no harm. They were Comanche, some of the most feared warriors in the West. He didn’t stand a chance with them, but he hoped the girl had told them he’d saved her from the other white men.

“Hey there,” he said friendly-like, not sure if they spoke English or not. “I was just helping your girl there out.”

The girl chattered at the oldest brave and Job met his gaze. There was something familiar about him, though Job didn’t know why since he rarely interacted with Indians—or white men for that matter.

“Laughing Brook says you took her from those men who stole her from us,” the brave said in pretty good English. Hell, he spoke better than Job did.

“Yeah. Crossed paths with the bastards a couple of days ago. Saw her with them and could tell they didn’t have any good use for her.” Job shrugged and relaxed a little, but he didn’t lower his hands. “Figured I should do something.”

The brave studied him. “You look like someone I know.”

Job lifted the corner of his mouth. “You do too.”

“I’m Barking Dog.” He crossed his arms over his chest.

“I’m Job Ramsey.” Job let his hands drop to his sides. “You wouldn’t be any relation to Eagle Burlington?”

Barking Dog nodded. “He’s my brother.”

Nodding, Job said, “Travis is my cousin.”

“Good.” Barking Dog turned away, saying something to the rest with him. He motioned for Job to follow. “My braves will take care of the rest of the men who took Laughing Brook. I must return her to her mother. You will come with me. We have a horse for you.”

“Appreciate it.” Job grabbed his saddlebags and rifle before trailing after the brave.

Maybe he should feel some kind of emotion about the fact those white men were going to be killed for what they’d done, but Job just couldn’t bring himself to give a shit. They were going to hurt the girl then kill her eventually. He didn’t hold with hurting women. Not that he saw them as defensive because God knew he’d seen his mother take after a man with a knife who was trying to steal one of her chickens.

No…women were perfectly capable of taking care of themselves when need be, but if those bastards were any kind of men, they’d have left her alone. Of course, a lot of white men didn’t see Indians as people and treated them like savages or worse.

Job wasn’t one of those people. Mostly because he’d actually spent more time with the Indians than his own people. He’d left Kentucky when he was sixteen and wandered west, searching for something in those far away mountains. He hadn’t found it yet, though he couldn’t tell anyone what ‘it’ was.

“Were you on your way to see Ramsey?” Barking Dog asked.

Surprised the brave had even spoken to him again, Job nodded. “Yep. Figured I’d stop by for a visit. It’s been a while since I came through this way.”

Barking Dog pursed his lips. “Nothing much has changed, though only one of Ramsey’s brothers remains at the ranch with them.”

“I’m glad Travis has family.” Then Job paused for a second before he continued, “I guess Eagle is his family now.”

“We are there and the marshal stops in once in a while when he is nearby.” Barking Dog came to a halt before letting out a bird call.

A young man stepped from the trees, leading a string of horses with him. Job spotted which one was for him. A steel dust gelding standing a head taller than the other mounts. Barking Dog gestured toward him.

“You may keep him as our thank you for rescuing Laughing Brook.”

“Thanks.” Job knew he could get a saddle from Travis when he showed up. He’d ridden bareback before. It wasn’t comfortable and he’d be aching for a while afterwards. Thank God, there’s a blanket. It’ll soften some of the ride.

The others watched as he greeted the gelding, cupping its nose in his hands and exchanging breaths with the animal. Some people didn’t think that worked, said it was just an old wife’s tale, but Job had seen a elderly Indian do it with a wild horse and it seemed to gentle the creature. He’d take all the help he’d get.

“He’s a fine piece of horseflesh,” he commented after checking the gelding’s legs and hooves. “I recognize the bloodline.”

Barking Dog laughed. “We get the odd big one foaled once in a while, so we take them to Eagle to deal with. We have no use for them.”

“Considering it was one of Travis’ studs who help cause that, I think it’s a wise decision.” Job settled his bags over the horse’s shoulders then swung up. The gelding shifted under his weight before halting. “I think we’ll get along fine.”

“Good. Let us go.” Barking Dog motioned for the others to mount.

Job was shuffled to the middle of the group as they rode off. Laughing Brook was hanging onto one of the braves who looked to be her brother or something. Job held the reins in one hand while keeping a death grip on his rifle. He couldn’t wait to get to Travis’ where he’d be able to wash up and get a good meal before sleeping for a day or two. It’d been a rough trip so far.