Minnie Woodward lives a lie. After barely surviving the Bear River Massacre she’s lived in the white world of her guardian Mister Rawlins, her life debt keeping her tied there. The last thing she needs is Roy’s attempts to gain her favor. Her fate’s sealed. She’s never believed in hope, and not even Roy can make her start.
Roy Ornum saves Minnie every night in the traveling Wild West show. The job he took to break his gambling habit brought him a new addiction – her. He knows she doesn’t want to be rescued, but maybe he does. She’s the key to a past he lost, one he wants to find again.
As the two grow closer old wounds are reopened and their burgeoning trust is shattered. When lives hang in the balance of their choices they’ll need to work together. Otherwise everything will be lost before hope can be found.
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Minnie couldn’t breathe, couldn’t see anything but their linked fingers. A simple gesture, but one that could get them in so much trouble if seen not only by the crowd, but by Mister as well. Still, she couldn’t manage to pull away. All she wanted to do was stay right there. Or maybe even take it further.
She let her fingers move toward his and he did the same until their fingers laced together. Slowly she turned her head.
His light amber eyes twinkled, a smile lifting his cheeks until the corners of his eyes crinkled. “I thought so.”
The crushing pressure on her chest released, and the unfamiliar tension of a real smile pinched her cheeks. The rest of the world no longer mattered now that she could stare into the eyes of one of her own people. A giddy skip to her heart and she dared to lean closer to him, dared to let the smile remain when she should have tried to erase it. “I don’t know how it could be true. But yes, that’s what I called the boy. Called you. You’re him, you are White Tail.”
“And now my dearest charge, the young woman that’s like a daughter to me, will display her trust in my skills.” The unfamiliar words of Mister ripped at the fleeting sense of relief. His face held no hint of its usual patronizing smile when he approached. “Won’t you, Minnie?”
Minnie couldn’t manage to shove away the shock, she couldn’t even blink. Never had Mister used his sharpshooter skills with her as a target. That action was reserved for people he didn’t trust. She yanked her hand from Roy’s grasp, but she knew it was already too late. A fleeting, desperate idea to plead her innocence emerged, but she ignored it and pushed forward a smile as bright as she ever used for her white woman act. She gave the Mister a nod, even as John pulled her toward the post.
Carl came up moments later with an apple. “Foolish child,” he whispered. “Just close your eyes so you don’t see it, and don’t move. He’s using his long shot and one little move could get you hit instead of the apple.”
She refused to show him the fear threatening to rip her stomach right out of her body. Instead she grabbed the apple with a small nod. “I understand.”
John moved behind her and set his hands on her waist. He kicked at her ankles before pushing them apart. “Wider stance helps you stay more still. Head straight. This is his warning, he won’t hurt you yet. Trust that.”
The advice wasn’t necessary, but she appreciated the gesture. After a moment she managed to swallow down the thick lump in her throat. It would do no good to show them her fear. “I’m not an idiot. Go before they think I’m scared.”
Despite her harsh words, John squeezed her shoulder in reassurance. Then he and Carl were gone.
Mister stood far down the street, the farthest distance he could shoot straight from what she could tell.
Though she’d seen him take this shot many times, she’d never been on the receiving end.Back straight, she lifted the apple to her head. In her mind she imagined the fantastical yelling of the Mister as he did before every shot. In reality she heard nothing but her own heartbeat pounding in her ears.
Slowly she dropped her hands to her sides, curling her skirt under her fingers. Despite her own internal promise she wouldn’t close her eyes, she did just that.
Through the rush of her heartbeat came the crack of the gun. Cool drops of apple and apple juices ran down her nose.
Sarah Cass’s world is regularly turned upside down by her three special-needs kids and loving mate, so she breaks genre barriers, dabbling in horror, straight fiction, and urban fantasy. An ADD tendency leaves her with a variety of interests that include singing, dancing, crafting, cooking, and being a photographer. She fights through the struggles of the day, knowing the battles are her crucible and though she may emerge scarred, she’s also stronger. Now officially multi-published, she’s still working on bringing new stories to fill out her year and your reading lists. While busy creating worlds and characters as real to her as her own family, she leads an active online life with her blog, Redefining Perfect, which gives a real and sometimes raw glimpses into her life and art.
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