Ethan Phillips is an idealistic tenderfoot from back East, passing through Defiance on his way to the California coast. He's heard tales of the gold that enriches the west coast, and he's looking for a way to make his dreams come true. When his horse pulls up lame, he offers to sing for the cowboys of Billy's Saloon to earn a few coins, but the men jeer at his song until a man in black quiets them. With one look into Jesse's dark eyes, Ethan finds himself falling for the man.
Ethan's horse heals but he stays in Defiance, enamored by his outlaw lover. But the cattle baron has a grudge against one of Jesse's outlaw friends, and a gunfight in Billy's Saloon puts a price on the Rustlers' heads. Can Jesse protect Ethan from the lawmen gunning for him and his friends?
|Publisher:||JMS Books LLC|
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||2 MB|
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Across from him, Diego looked at the tenderfoot, then at Jesse, and he snickered as he threw another pile of chips into the pot. Jesse fought the urge to kick his foot out under the table--he knew what his old friend was thinking.
And damned if he wasn't probably right.
"Another one for your collection," Diego said in that mocking tone he used when he spoke to Jesse, as if afraid of his friend's reaction but unable to keep the joke to himself. Jesse ignored him, head cocked so he could watch Ethan weave through the crowd to seat himself in front of Billy's old piano. "You sure like them pretty, don't you?"
"Shut up," Kit mumbled from the depths of his liquor. "At least he don't get us into trouble like that one..." He motioned to Joey with his glass, spilling Scotch onto the sawdust floor. "No paw's gonna hold a shotgun to your back so's you can marry his foolhardy son."
Jesse laughed, looking over at Joey. Their friend was nuzzling Marie's neck, ignoring the fact that she still flirted with a half dozen young men in the room. "At least Marie's safe," he said, shrugging. "He just needs to keep his hands off the cultured women, that's all."
"You mean the ones he favors." Kit snorted into his drink. "That's why he likes 'em; he knows he can't have 'em."
The first crystal notes from the piano filled the air as Ethan tested the instrument, and Jesse frowned at his cards when the noise in the bar seemed to increase. The more Ethan played, the louder the cowboys got, as if deliberately trying to drown out the music. When Ethan began to sing softly, his voice was lost in the ruckus around them, and Kit laughed. "He ain't getting a penny in this shitholetonight."
The cowboys teased the young tenderfoot, disrupting the song that quivered beneath their raucous catcalls and mocking words. Jesse could barely hear the sound of Ethan's voice, a ray of angelic light cutting through the noise. "Stuff it, pretty boy!" someone cried.
Laughter followed as Ethan's voice faltered on the opening strands of "Nearer My God to Thee."
"Pick up the pace!" someone else shouted, and a few cowboys close to the piano leaned over Ethan, their fingers reaching for the keys. Discordant notes plucked from the instrument to strike the air, and Ethan blushed beneath the rough men pushing him aside. Someone else started up a round of a familiar drinking song, winking at Marie until she laughed like a bell in the crowd.
Jesse had had enough. Tossing his cards into the kitty, he stood and pulled his Colt .45 in one fluid move. Without taking aim, he fired a shot into the air.
The loud report silenced the room.
Diego and Kit looked up at him, Joey turned from Marie, and Ethan's warm gaze enflamed Jesse's senses. He dared another half-smile; the cowboys in the room shifted uncomfortably under the weight of Jesse's pale blue eyes. "If you don't mind," he drawled, his voice dangerously low, "I'd like to hear this song."