It’s RWA Week. That’s the national conference of Romance Writer’s of America. A lot of the Fillies are out of town or will be soon so today, I’m just giving you something to read. Part of the opening scene from Over the Edge and I had such a great response to my giveaway last week that I’m doing another one. Leave a comment to get your name in the drawing for a signed copy of Over the Edge (Or Click to buy it HERE -c’mon, you could have two copies, think of it as early Christmas shopping!)
Over the Edge
October 30, 1866
A bullet slammed through the door of the stagecoach, threading a needle to miss all four passengers.
“It’s a hold-up!” Callie grabbed her rifle. “Get down!”
The stage driver yelled and cracked his whip. More flying lead hit, higher on the stagecoach. The man riding shotgun got his rifle into action.
“Get on the floor.” The woman sitting across fromCallie was frozen with fear. That endangered Connor and it madeCallie furious.
The bullets came fast. They were going slow on a long uphill slope. With the driver’s shout the stage picked up speed. From the roof came a steady volley of deafening return fire.
Reaching across, Callie grabbed the woman by the ruffled front of her pink gingham dress and dragged her off the seat. The woman shrieked but didn’t put up a fight, which was smart of her. Callie would’ve won that fight.
Somewhat more gently, Callie picked Connor up from the seat beside her and set him on the woman’s lap. Eight-month-old Connor yelped, more a shout of anger than a cry. But crying would come soon enough. Her little wild man didn’t do anything quietly.
“Can you shoot?” She shouted at the young man, hoping he’d snap out of whatever panic had seized him. He shook his head frantically. “Get on the floor.”
Callieused her whiplash voice and hoped it got the man moving. She threw herself across to the woman’s seat to face backward. With her Colt in her left hand and her Winchester in her right, she shoved the curtain aside. The flare of the orange and yellow aspen lining the road blocked any sign of the gunmen.
Calliedidn’t bother to push the man to the floor. Let the idiot figure that out himself. She got a glimpse of the robbers riding around a curve. Bullets hailed on the coach. Callie held back, waiting for a clear shot.
Connor’s yelling turned to a cry.Calliewas enraged that her son was in such terrible danger when he should have been safe on her father’s ranch inTexas.
The noise overhead said the driver’d slid off his high seat to use the stage as cover. She heard the man riding shotgun land flat on his belly on the roof. The driver’s shouting and the gunfire slashed like a sharp knife through the cool October morning.
“Try and calm Connor down.” Not much chance of that. Connor had been a whirlwind since birth. And the two caring for him were more upset than he was.
She counted four outlaws. The varmints had picked this uphill slope a few miles outside ofColoradoCitybecause the stage slowed to a crawl.
Callie had plenty of bullets but she was a conservative woman, and she didn’t intend to fire blind and waste lead. She was mighty low on money and she needed ammunition for when she finally tracked down that worthlessSethKincaid.
The stagecoach yawed past a curve and it put them out of the line of fire until the outlaws could round it.
The young woman was hugging Connor. The man had wedged himself onto the floor putting his body between Connor, his wife, and gunfire. Maybe he wasn’t completely worthless.
A bullet cut through the stage door and splinters exploded and slashedCallie’s left hand. She flinched and got her hand right back on the trigger of her Colt.
Calliebraced her rifle against her shoulder and took careful aim, the whole world slowed down. The noise faded into the background. She felt pulled away, out of the action, her mind was working, her nerves were steady. The bleeding hand didn’t hurt. As she looked at the trail behind the colors were so vivid and her vision so sharp it was almost painful.
The pulsing hooves behind them gave her the attackers’ exactly location and she steadied her gun. The slow moving coach gave her a chance at a steady shot.
A glance over her shoulder told her the trail would twist just ahead. Their pursuers would be swallowed up by the heavy forest lining the road. They appeared and disappeared in the thick plumes of dust.
Calliesaw shining silver on the band of a flat topped black hat. The man was a fool to wear silver if he wanted to make his living sneaking around.
Callie inhaled slowly, then exhaled halfway to relax her chest, waited for the glint of silver and fired.
A bright splash of red marked the desperado’s shirt as he slammed backward and was gone. Another outlaw took his place at the front of the pack.
Connor shrieked at the loud sound of shooting so close. She separated herself from her mother’s need to comfort, because the real comfort came from a ma who would protect him. She’d dry his tears later.
With the cool ruthlessness of a mama wolf defending her young—a mama wolf with a fire iron—Calliedrew a bead and fired. Her target kept coming. Bullet’s shattered the door just above her head. They’d aimed at the roof mostly but now they knew someone inside the stage was in the fight.
Hating that she’d drawn their guns and further endangered Connor, she fired—slow, steady, withering fire. From overhead she heard the same. A steady man guarded this stage. The driver kept shouting, cracking his whip. Another steady man was at the reins.
A second outlaw went down. A third came on. She’d counted four so they were close to finishing this nonsense.
They crested the hill. A few more yards and they’d pick up speed.ColoradoCitywas at the base of this rattlesnake of a trail.
Hold them off. A few more seconds.
Calliefired. A bullet whizzed so close she felt the heat.
A sudden snap under the stagecoach lurched them to the side. They tipped, liftingCallie’s side of the bench seat up, up, up. She saw the woman wrap her body around Connor and the man wrap his arms around both of them. Her son surrounded by a flesh and blood shield. A sickening crunch told her the stage hit the rocky outcropping on the side of the trail. A chunk of wood bounced into the dust behind them. Part of one wheel.
The brake came on hard as the driver tried to stop them from rolling out of control. Another thud shook Callie so hard she was thrown backward on the bench seat and smacked her shoulder into the side of the stage. The stage, slow anyway because of the climb, slewed sideways, tipped so Callie was nearly lying on her back, then shuddered to a halt.
Callieheard the coach’s team of four horses go pounding away, broken free from their burden.
The guard overhead shouted, “Stay inside.” He fired and now the driver’s gun came into action.Calliespun on the seat now tipped upward at a steep angle. She lay on her side, shoved her feet against the downhill side of the stage and got back up to the window.
A bullet whistled past her face.
There were two left. They’d taken cover and were trying to pick the men off the roof.Calliefocused her eagle-sharp eyes on the pair attacking them. The tip of one gun was visible. In the motionless stage she could now aim with real precision. She fired. A cry of pain sounded as the muzzle vanished.
Return fire hailed on them from one remaining outlaw.
A sudden shout from overhead told her one of the stagecoach men was hit. She watched for the last remaining gun and saw it just as another shot came from a few yards farther up the trail. The bullet hit the window frame. Shards of wood slashed her face.
A second bullet was just as close and she dived low to give them less of a target.
She looked down at the young man who was using his own body as a shield to protect her son. “Just wood. The bullet missed.”
“Give me the gun.”
“Can you shoot? Can you hit what you aim at?”
The man’s jaw went rigid then stiffly, he shook his head no.
“Then stay down there, city boy. Let us handle this.”