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Sam Duncan was too young when he marched off to war and was brutally imprisoned. He's witnessed and experienced a lifetime of cruelty and he's lost too much to care about anything ever again. While he was captured, his entire family died, leaving him with the only person he cares about - his cellmate, Griff. As a result, his steely nerves have made Sam one of the most famous and feared hired guns in the west. Then Griff disappears inside the gates of Hamilton's fabulously profitable Silver Spur ranch. Sam figures...
Sam Duncan was too young when he marched off to war and was brutally imprisoned. He's witnessed and experienced a lifetime of cruelty and he's lost too much to care about anything ever again. While he was captured, his entire family died, leaving him with the only person he cares about - his cellmate, Griff. As a result, his steely nerves have made Sam one of the most famous and feared hired guns in the west. Then Griff disappears inside the gates of Hamilton's fabulously profitable Silver Spur ranch. Sam figures that posing as a bodyguard of the Baron of Banking's daughter, who's come to visit, will be the simplest solution to finding his way in.Little did he expect that fighting a war would do so little to prepare him for an encounter with the very adventurous and alluring Laura.
Hell's Pass, Wyoming
It was a hard thing to lose a friend. It was harder yet when you could number your friends using less than one hand. When, if it came right down to it, it took but one finger.
The fact that Sam Duncan called no one else friend was his own choice. It was a lesson he'd learned hard; when people around you dropped like flies in August it was far easier to remain alone than to get to know someone just to lose them.
But Griff ... Griff had been the one who, just like Sam, hadn't died. He didn't know if they'd been too lucky or too stubborn or just too damn stupid to give in when everybody else had. Though he had to admit "friend" didn't really cover it. When you'd spent nearly half a year together in a hole too small for a grave and managed not to kill each other, you had a bond that most people -- the lucky ones who skipped through life happily unaware of the really vicious things people could do to each other -- could never understand.
He winced, gingerly probing his jaw where it throbbed to beat hell, despite the ice he'd slapped on it an hour ago when he'd finally stumbled into town and found himself a saloon full of people who barely blinked an eye when a fellow weaved in looking like John L. Sullivan, the Boston Strongboy, had used him for a sparring partner. Sooner or later he was going to have to wash out the blood matting his beard, but he was shooting for later.
When he'd crawled away from the Silver Spur, it would have been closer to head to Salt Lake City. But that was a Mormon town, and he'd known he was going to need a place where he could get some whiskey.
He downed another slug from the bottle on the table before him, noting that his hand only quivered a bit when he lifted it. The room was small and rough, and the saloon keeper had charged him too much for it because it usually rented by the hour. But Sam knew that once he dropped into bed he wasn't going to be able to haul himself out again for a good twelve hours.
Outside the single grimy window, the sky had grayed, as if the sun were too tired to keep shining, not going out in a burst of flashy color, but simply fading away like a harlot's henna when her hair had gotten too gray to soak up the red anymore. A piano squawked from the main room below. It was probably supposed to sound gay and cheerful but instead it was brassy and off-tune, setting his brain to throbbing behind his eyes. Now and then a spurt of laughter—the nasty-edged laughter of people trying too hard to convince themselves they were having fun -- burst through and clashed with the tune.
He was obviously getting too old to have the shit beaten out of him. He felt every wound: the bruise that spread over half his chest and made him groan every time he moved, the kick that had caught him in the back, the swollen and split knuckles he'd earned trying to fight back. He couldn't open his left eye, and the fact that his knees still worked was nothing short of a miracle.
He didn't recall it ever hurting so much. Maybe a fellow was allotted only so much pain tolerance for his life and he'd used his upbef ore he'd hit twenty, because he was doing a piss-poor job of tolerating the pain at the moment.
He contemplated the whiskey for a while. He had to work up to another drink, because the stuff set his split lip afire every time he touched it, a burn that was almost as bad as all the other aches combined. Maybe if he just didn't move, didn't twitch, didn't breathe, it'd be okay.
Lord, if anybody could see him now ... ow, ow, ow. Chuckling was a really bad idea, he quickly discovered. But he'd spent all these years building up a reputation as a really ruthless piece of work, so much so that the mere rumor that he'd been hired had snuffed more than one strike and range war before they'd ever gotten started. And right now he doubted he could defend himself against a six-year-old.
Yeah, there'd been a lot of men coming at him. Maybe a dozen, he thought, though his vision had blurred early on, and that just might be his pride talking. And they'd caught him by surprise -- but that was the whole point, wasn't it? Nobody had caught Sam Duncan by surprise in a good fifteen years. But it had all seemed routine. They'd answered his questions with such mild disinterest before cordially escorting him off the Silver Spur that he'd been pretty close to assuming that they were telling him the truth and that Griff had never gotten there in the first place.
But Sam hadn't gotten to be the highest-paid hired gun in seven states by taking anybody's word for anything. He'd nosed around the nearest town for a bit -- no information to be had, the most close-mouthed bunch of ostensibly "friendly" people he'd ever met, and that did make him suspicious -- before heading back toward the Silver Spur. They were waiting for him before he'd ever gotten close . . . and since there were at least four other routes he could have taken back, he wondered just how many men Haw Crocker, the owner of the Silver Spur, had sent out to make sure that Sam Duncan regretted it if he didn't go quietly on his way.
It had gotten dark enough in the room that he could no longer read the two papers he'd spread out on the rickety pine table ...A Wanted Man. Copyright © by Susan Kay Law. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Posted December 9, 2008
In 1884, the pampered daughter of a tycoon Laura Hamilton has finally escaped her gilded cage as she crosses the country by train to paint a panorama of the impact of the Union-Pacific on the nation. Although her father reluctantly allowed her to go, he provides her with an escort and bodyguards............................... During a train robbery, Sam Duncan rescues Laura. Later he tells her that her father hired him as a bodyguard. Sam plans to use Laura to gain access to the heavily guarded Silver Spur Ranch in Utah where his only friend Haw Croaker is either dead or in trouble. However, as they journey west, the silver spooned heiress and the infamous gunslinger for hire fall in love. His quest comes first besides which he knows her father would never accept someone like him as a son-in-law even if he disavows the inheritance............................... This western romance starring seemingly opposites is a solid tale that readers will appreciate. Laura is a delightful person though she seems too independent during her first breath of freedom (perhaps a reaction like the tune ¿how you¿re going to keep them down on the farm ...¿). Sam is an enigmatic hero who at first brush would seem more like a villain as a gun for hire, but his ethical system makes him heroic. Fans will enjoy this twosome¿s impossible ride to love...................................... Harriet Klausner
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Posted November 16, 2013
This book received the RITA award for best short historical romance. It was well worth the $2.99. The main characters, Sam and Laura had depth, vulnerability, and humor. Also, I fell in love with the secondary characters, Lucy and Hiram. I wish there were more scenes between them or they had their own novel or novella. Overall, this one was a good yarn. Reviewed by KCM.
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