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Arizona Territory, 1882
Robbing a bank was easier than it should have been.
Maggie's hands didn't even shake as she turned the knob of Fresh Springs' only bank. Even though it was an hour before opening, the door gave easily and she slipped inside the quiet room. She wore her father's spare holster, the wooden butt of his Colt single-action pistol cool against her palm. Billy Waverly stood behind the large counter to the left and raised his head as the door snapped shut behind her. His brow wrinkled as he took in her trousers and mannish coat.
She lifted the pistol shoulder high. Her heart thundered in her ears like a runaway horse. "All right, pay attention. This is a robbery."
She ought to be afraid. Instead she buzzed with a queer sort of energy.
Timothy Keefe leaped from the mahogany desk that was normally the throne of Willheim Masterson, the bank's owner, and gaped at her. "What?"
"Hands up," she yelled. Tim's astonishment wasn't surprising, but he obeyed and his hands rose above his head. In her entire life in Fresh Springs, she had never known the bank to be robbed. Even the ex-Confederate raiders who'd terrorized the area until recently had avoided it. As a result, Maggie hoped for a fat prize for the risk she was taking.
She waved the Colt at Tim until he moved behind the counter to stand next to Billy. She threw two burlap sacks at them. "Put the money in the bag and I won't have to hurt anyone."
"Maggie? Is that you?" Tim's jaw cleaved open and his hands slumped to his ears.
She wiggled the gun again. "Your hands better be in the air or filling those bags."
Pulling the black kerchief from her face, she dropped it to loop around her neck. She should have known better than to attempt a disguise. But then, desperate people did desperate things, and it wouldn't matter much since she'd be out of Fresh Springs in less than a half hour. The pants and shirt she'd hauled out from her brother Robert's chest of belongings would help as well.
"Mr. Masterson's going to have your hide for this," Tim said.
Billy's gaze pinged back and forth between them both. His lower lip drooped and trembled under the scraggly moustache he'd been so proud to grow over the last few months. Maggie felt the worst about frightening Billy. They'd been classmates until he left their one-room schoolhouse four years ago to clerk for Willheim Masterson. Maggie had gone on to take care of her family. What was left of it.
"Masterson won't be able to find me." She narrowed her eyes at Tim. "I want the money from the safe too."
He coughed and tugged his bright green waistcoat over his significant belly. "That won't be possible. I don't have the combination."
Fear drew her skin tight and made the tip of her gun shake. He wasn't taking her seriously. She let loose the anger she'd felt watching Masterson's false concern as he denied her the loan her father so desperately needed.
"Don't lie to me." She leveled the gun and lined the sights up between Tim's eyes.
His throat worked above his pinching collar. "It's the truth, Maggie."
One quick move pointed her muzzle at the ceiling. She jerked the trigger. The loud bang rattled the quiet room. A trickling stream of falling plaster drifted through shafts of yellow light from the front window. Just as quickly, she returned her aim to the men. "I'm dead serious, Tim. I don't think you want to find out just how dead, now do you?"