Buck Evans’ troubles begin when Maria Danbury rescues him after bushwhackers shoot him in the back. When he departs, the unforgettable woman presents him with gifts that may make the difference between life and death on the trail. The surprises keep coming when he returns to Maria’s home. Buck offers to help when unscrupulous businessmen try to ruin her family. This western adventure has plenty of shoot-outs and fistfights for action lovers and is a tale of lingering love for the one that got away.
Read and Hear from the audiobook in this Free Preview from Chapter 1
Buck heard something trying to penetrate the nothingness of his unconsciousness. At first it seemed faint, indistinguishable. He focused on the sound.
A woman. Shouting.
How much time has passed? No idea. Probably still the same day. Doubt if I’d have survived the night with how much blood I’ve lost.
“Hey, mister! You alive?”
It took several seconds for Buck to summon his strength enough to respond through his parched throat. “Yes.”
The young woman thought she heard something but couldn’t be sure. She was about to shout again when she saw his head move.
He tried to shout louder but his voice reached her as barely a whisper. “Yes. Shot. Behind my left shoulder. Bushwhacked.” He panted, trying to catch his breath. “Need water.”
She ran to get a canteen, tied it to a rope, and lowered it as far as it would go. It was still about two-thirds from the bottom. The young woman aimed it so it would fall in what looked like a soft patch near the man and let go. It hit two feet from his left elbow and bounced into him. He winced and jerked his elbow to his side.
The woman shouted, “Sorry, mister.”
Buck slowly sat up, teetering. He reached for the canteen, breathing hard, pulled the cork with his teeth, spat it out, and drank what to him seemed like the best-tasting water he’d ever had.
Buck said, “Don’t be. If it had fallen much farther away, I might not have had the strength left to get it.”
He drank again and felt a bit more of his strength return with every careful swallow. Pace yourself. Don’t want stomach cramps.
She saw the three bodies lying around him and a shiver ran down her spine, thinking, three horses were tied to a fallen tree near the trail when I rode up. Must have been the bushwhackers’. But how do I know the three dead men are the bushwhackers? Maybe their target and two of the bushwhackers are the dead ones. That seems as least as likely as their victim getting jumped but managing to kill all three and living to tell about it. What if the man I’m talking to is a bushwhacker and I free him? There’s got to be a way to quickly figure out if he is one of the outlaws.
She shouted down to him. “What’s your name, mister?”
“Hold on.” She ran to the horse she’d rode in on, rummaged through a saddle bag and found a bill of sale with the name Buck Evans on it, and ran back to the lip of the ravine.
“I have your horse. He showed up at our house without a rider. I thought someone might have been thrown and needed help. Followed his tracks back to you.”
“Mighty glad you did.”
His head throbbed. Dizzy. Won’t be long before I lose consciousness.
The woman called down, “Can you reach the rope and tie yourself to it?
Buck saw the end of it was only about fifteen feet away, but in his condition, he wasn’t sure he could make it. He didn’t waste energy answering her. He staggered to his feet and stumbled toward it. Buck fell, tried to stand, and fell again. Lost too much blood. Panting and bathed in sweat, he tucked his left arm near his chest to try to minimize the excruciating pain, then crawled three-limbed the rest of the way to the rope. He used the ravine’s rocky wall to steady himself as he rose to his feet, then continued leaning against it as he tied the lifeline to himself.
Buck shouted, “I’m ready.”
Out of sight, she shouted, “Hang on. Likely to be a rough ride.”
Buddy grunted at the effort of lifting the nearly dead weight as the young woman coaxed him forward.
Buck felt himself slowly lifted off his feet. He crashed into the wall, tried to push off with his good arm and his legs, overcompensated, and spun around. His wounded shoulder smashed into a jagged outcrop. Buck gasped and ground his teeth from the pain.
Much more of that and I’ll be a corpse before I reach the top.
He tried again to face the wall in a way that would help him avoid being dragged along its rough surface or bashed into it as he continued rising. With a little trial and more error, he discovered the right technique to keep him from spinning and bouncing too much.