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An hour later, Charlie bedded his horse Teaser in the barn, then entered the dark back door he'd left earlier. Now, however, he was even more confused than ever. It hadn't taken long to walk the mile-long road to the railroad track and train station. With the exception of a dim light in the closed telegraph office, there wasn't a creature stirring in the whole damn town. Several of the forty or so houses had lights burning, one or two had the windows open, and the spring night air drifted on a lazy breeze. He heard the laughter and occasional low voices of their occupants. But that was it. Peace was everwhere.
Standing in the center of the murderess's parlor, Charlie pushed his hat back on his head. "What in the hell kind of wild town is this?" he asked the silent room. He was confused. Until he reached the train station, he wasn't sure he was in the right place. But the sign hanging from a pole said blissful. It had been crossed out and helltown was clearly written below. Then it stated population 92, just as plain as day.
The calico cat awoke, mewed, and jumped down from the soft rocker cushion. After a big stretch, it sauntered into the living room.
Charlie looked around again. Everything seemed the same. No clues were around that a man had been here. But he knew better. He heard him.
Charlie walked back into the parlor and looked through the lace-curtained windows across the street at the other two houses.
He couldn't be wrong. It was Vic's horse tracks leading to this town, it was Vic's horse in the barn just beyond the house, and it had to have been Vic who spoke to the woman in this very kitchen.
Charlie had watched thisplace all day. He'd kept himself wedged between the boulders that acted as a rear entrance to the small town laid out below. He'd made his watching spot at the far side of town, away from the commercial part over by the railroad station. This was the right town; he'd seen the sign. Its reputation was wicked and wild, even by Texas standards. More men had died in this small part of civilization than in any other place in the state.
It wasn't a safe place to be if you treasured your life. But Charlie was damned if his was going to be snuffed out by some no-account rustler--no matter who it was. He was going to be extra careful and walk away the winner with a hefty bounty in his pocket. And that meant that Vic Masters was alive and turned in to the law for judgment.
From his vantage point on the hill, he'd seen three houses sitting on the edge of town. Each was about two or three acres apart. All were whitewashed, one with bright yellow trim, one with blue, and one with green. Flowers blossomed in the front yards, while the backs were plowed and furrowed with growing vegetables of some kind peeping up in the sun. It looked as pretty as a peaceful picture could be. Charlie expected a Sunday school preacher to step out one of the doors and bless the day any moment.
But he knew better. This town had the wickedest reputation in the country. Everyone with any sense knew to stay away from Helltown, formally known as Blissful. Gunfights, killings, and worse were a regular thing in the little town that clung to the edge of the West. Why, every train that paused long enough for coal and water saw someone get killed. That should have been a lesson right there. The place couldn't even keep a sheriff, let alone make it safe for the citizens of the town.
Charlie yawned. He needed a good night's sleep. He'd been on Vic Masters's trail for over a week now, and this was the closest he'd been to the scum-sucking bandit. Every time he'd found his trail, it was two or three days old. Until yesterday. Yesterday he'd hit the outskirts of Waco, just a day south of here. They'd bedded his horse for a while, until he'd made a visit to the sheriff's office. The old sheriff told him that only two hours before Charlie had arrived, Vic had picked up his horse and headed toward this town. The traveling farrier told him to stay clear of Helltown, that it was too wicked to go into. The sheriff swore that even big bad Vic Masters wasn't dumb enough to go to that town.
That made Charlie even more suspicious. What kind of citizenry would hide trash instead of expelling it? Especially Masters, who had a record as long as his trail.
So here he was, spending the day spying on a town that should have been dead by all accounts, yet looked more like something out of a painting of what settled family communities of the West should be.
But then he'd hit pay dirt. Raising his binoculars, he'd focused on the place where he saw a slight movement--either that or a bush was waving in the occasional breeze.
He stared hard at the view in his glasses, unable to believe his eyes. But it was true.
A young woman stood in the middle of the backyard of the yellow house. Unbound red-blond hair flowed down her back and nearly touched her firmly rounded bottom. She was wearing nothing more than a flimsy white chemise and full slip. The top of the chemise was undone, its golden ribbons hanging straight down as if it had never been tied this day. She held an armful of dripping-wet dresses, and hung one dress at a time on the sagging rope that served as a clothesline. She held an extra clothespin in her mouth as she finished draping the last gown over the line and slipped a pin over it as an anchor.
Then, without so much as a glance around to insure er safety, she lifted her hair off the nape of her neck to catch any breeze, then daintily picked her barefooted way down the path to the back of the house and slipped inside the screen door. The hot spring air was so quiet that even from this distance, Charlie heard the wood clap shut. He'd kept the binoculars trained on the ground where she'd stood earlier. Tracks--the same horse tracks he'd been looking for--headed toward her barn.
He grinned, but it wasn't a pleasant smile. He'd found his man.
Besides, there was no way a pretty little woman would walk out of a house dressed like that unless she felt safe because of what was inside the house to protect her. And, as dainty a picture as she made, she was dressed as if she'd just had a satisfying tumble in the hay moments before tripping into the backyard. That would be Masters's style. Charlie gave a grunt, meant to still the images those thoughts incurred. Disgusting Masters. He'd stop a woman in her work to make sure he was satisfied first.
He ignored the voice in his head that said, So would you, and don't say you deny it. Of course he would, especially if it was with a woman who didn't have the decency to belong to a regular town citizenry. But this wasn't a regular town. This was Helltown, the most wicked town in the West.
Posted December 16, 2006
Blissful is one of the best western/cowboy historical romances I have read in a long time. Rita Clay's characters are so well written and heartwarming. You find yourself just pulling for this little town's survival as they face extinction with the railroad building west. Blissful is as blissful as it sounds and there is no excitement in this town. So the town's citizens pull together with Kathleen O'Day to play act hold ups and gunfights in order to put Blissful on the map and they do. More and more travelers want to stop at Blissful and view the wild, wild west. But what happens when a real gunfighter comes to town in the form of the handsome Charlie Macon? Well, the sparks fly as this books seduces and makes you laugh out loud. A real treat and one you will want to read over and over.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.