by Jane Elliot
Will Connors is struggling to hold together a failing farm; his wife has died, his son has gone, he’s not without enemies and he’s dealing with the after-effects of a debilitating accident. It’s a life of toil which doesn’t allow for very much pleasure, and he’s in danger of becoming embittered until a chance acquaintance wanders back into his life and everything begins to change. The problem, however, is that John Anderson has a price on his head – and, very soon, Will and John find themselves desperately concealing more than one dangerous secret.
46,000 words/170 pages
Publication 1 May 2010
RAINBOW AWARDS 2010
Ninth in Best Gay Historical category
“…a refreshing and gratifying tale without half the angst I expected…”
Review at Rainbow Reviews 9 May 2010
(Site since removed)
“…strong, clearly depicted characters…satisfying emotional impact…”
Review at BookWenches 14 May 2010
(Site since removed)
“…a fantastic read…wonderful characters…”
Review at Literary Nymphs 27 May 2010
“…a sweet, gentle book that worked for me on just about every level.”
Review by Aunt Lynn at Jessewave 5 June 2010
“…easy pace and interesting storytelling keeps the pages turning…”
Review at Three Dollar Bill Reviews 11 June 2010
(Site since removed)
“…a perfect example of a Western romance…”
Review by Elissa Rolle 12 December 2010
“This book is like a fine old western film … “
Review by Jenre at Well Read 21 April 2011
” … a character-driven novel with a solid, unique plot … “
Review by Maggie B. at Dark Divas Reviews 24 October 2011
“… steady pacing and complex personalities make it a treat to read …”
Review by Val at ARe Cafe 2 February 2012
“An enjoyable western novel written in the classical style … “
Review at Gerry B’s Book Reviews 8 April 2013
“There was a lot to love in this book. …”
Review by Sadie Forsythe, 10 February 2015
He was on his way back to the house when he heard the gunshots. Swearing under his breath, his heart racing, Will kicked Brownie into a gallop, knowing he was too far away, that there was no way he could get back in time, that his wife and son were probably already dead, or worse.
The house was quiet when Brownie slid to the stop, Will already halfway off the horse’s back. He burst inside the front door to see Molly, Tommy, and John all sitting around the table. Molly and Tommy were both white faced and Molly’s hair was down around her shoulders, but no one seemed to be bleeding and a frantic search of the room didn’t reveal any dangerous outlaws waving weapons, though John was sitting with a straight back and tense shoulders and his eyes were flicking around the room as if searching for more enemies.
Will’s breath caught in his throat as he saw a lump on the floor, near the back window. It was surrounded by a spreading puddle of blood.
“What happened?” he forced out.
Before Will finished speaking, Molly and Tommy had launched themselves out of their chairs and were hugging him tightly, which left John to answer, “Thieves, I think, looking for easy targets. They saw an isolated ranch without a bunkhouse and decided to see what they could get.”
“There were five of ’em, pa,” Tommy said and despite everything, Will managed a tiny smile. Even with tears in his eyes, Tommy’s enthusiasm was irrepressible. “They all had guns, and they wanted Mama to show them the barn.”
Will’s eyes widened and he snapped his head around to look at Molly. “John stopped them,” she said, her voice shaky and occasionally breaking. “I thought I’d scared them off with the shotgun, but they just went around to the back. One of them grabbed T-tommy before I could reload and he said he’d let Tommy go if I… but then John… John –”
“He was amazing, Dad,” Tommy cut in. “He shot the guy who was holding me. Didn’t even hesitate, just lifted the gun and said, ‘you shouldn’t’ve come here’. Then he pulled the trigger and the bad guy jerked and –” Molly shushed him, having apparently heard as much as she could bear.
Will tightened his grip, holding his family close as he looked up to find John watching them with shadowed eyes. “Thank you,” he said. “Thank you.”
John offered a tight smile in return and quietly left the room.
Will let him go, all of his attention back on his family.
A week later, John emerged from the bedroom wearing the clothes that he had arrived in. Molly had washed and repaired them, but they hung a bit on John’s frame; he’d only recently started to regain the weight that he’d lost in that first week. “Oh,” Molly said, when she caught sight of John. “You’re not leaving already, are you?”
“I’ve trespassed on your hospitality long enough,” John said, with a charming smile.
Molly looked like she wanted to argue for a moment but after taking a hard look at John, she just shook her head. “I’ll pack up something for your lunch.”
John’s smile turned warmer and noticeably more genuine. “Thank you, Molly.”
She just harrumphed in reply and pulled out the cookie jar. John positively beamed.
Will found himself wanting to smile at the scene, but he managed to restrain himself. “You sure you’re fit to ride?”
“I’ve ridden in much worse condition than this,” John said, pulling his eyes away from the cookie jar with obvious reluctance. “Thank you both for taking such good care of me. I won’t forget it.”
“Come back anytime,” Molly said with a smile, wrapping up a couple of apples, a loaf of bread, and some salt pork to along with the cookies. “You’re always welcome here.”
“Thank you again, Molly,” John said with a smile and a small bow. “Will.” Another smile, though no bow. “I’ll be sure to find Tommy and say goodbye before I go.”
John walked out the front door and Will watched him go, with the realization that he’d probably never see John again.
Two days later, he went into town. On the poster board next to the post office was a new wanted poster, for “the notorious murderer and stage robber” John Anderson. A $500 reward was offered.
The picture beneath was of John.