A five dollar gold piece and a ticket out of town was all Gabriel had left after a woman's greed and lies left him nearly dead in the street, branded a rapist and murderer.
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Waking up in a pest hole of a hospital, Gabriel ‘Angel’ Taylor formed a new credo for living: don’t care about anything or anyone, never get involved in other men’s fights, never depend on those he thought were friends, and never trust a woman. Most of all, never trust a woman no matter how pretty she was.
Gabe reached for his shirt, neatly pressed the same as the suit, looked up at Hedges and saw that Hedges' eyes were locked onto the fresh scar on his side. He knew Hedges had to have seen the scar marring the smoothness of his back shoulder, too.
"Well?" he demanded with hostility, that flash of rage building.
"Well what, boy?" Hedges said, raising his eyes to meet Gabe's.
"Aren't you going to ask me how I got them?" he demanded.
"Nope, ain't none of my never-mind, but I can sure see why you're tuckered out. Bad place to catch a slug. Sure you ought to be traveling so soon?"
The throbbing behind Gabe's temples eased off. He shrugged and said, "Wasn't anything else to do."
"Riders coming. Must be the Rocking M hands," Hedges said, pulling the team to a halt in front of the well-constructed gate of the homestead yard. "Don't see Little Sam, though."
Gabe didn't see anyone particularly little. The average bunch of cowhands had a share of smaller than average men in it, but this one didn't. The leader in front of the five men was bigger than most men, mean-looking on top of it, dark and swarthy with the look of a brawler. He was the one Gabe watched. The man looked mad clear through.
Riding down hard on them, he got so close to Hedges' team that they pranced and fought the traces when he jerked his mount to a halt not three paces from their heads.
He hit the ground running and didn't stop until he had Gabe by the front of the coat, jerking him off the wagon to his knees. "Give me that deed," the man shouted as he jerked Gabe up and threw him into the gate.
"What the hell are you doing, Pierce?" Hedges yelled. He fought to keep his team under control, but when he saw Gabe being dragged to his feet and Pierce's fist cocked and ready to drive into Gabe's face, he forgot about them and jumped off the wagon.
Gabe didn't see the fist. He didn't see much of anything but a red haze. He let the man lift him far enough to get his feet on the ground, then he drove himself up with both legs, his one strong arm swinging.
A counter-attack was the last thing the bully called Steven Pierce expected. The knuckles caught him across the nose, making a noise that let everyone know without a doubt that his nose was broken. His eyes watered so fast, he was blind and helpless to protect himself as the first punch was followed by another, then another and another until the other riders could get off their horses to help him.
Pierce rolled off to the side and held his nose until the others managed to get Gabe pressed up against a fence post to hold him and Hedges was dragged back out of the way. One man each held one of Gabe's arms along the fence rail and one crawled through the fence to hold Gabe to the post with both hands by the collar. One man held Hedges back with an arm around his neck.
"You're gonna pay for that," Pierce promised with a twisted grin, closing in to repay some of those blows. He was stopped painfully short of his goal by Gabe's foot in the middle of his gut. "Hold him, damn it," he gasped.
"Get a rope."
Joe was trying to oblige, but he had a difficult time working his gun free while still holding on to Gabe's collar with only one hand. He finally had the weapon raised above Gabe's head, waiting for a clear whack at him when a new voice joined the chaos, coming from a rider racing in. The words carried over Hedges' wild shouting and made Joe jerk erect and stiff in obedience, even if the voice was female.
"You hit him, Joe, and you'll draw your time in about five seconds flat."
"Little Sam, there wasn't no call for this," Hedges cried, wiggling himself free from the man that held him.
Little Sam Mentrol sat still in the saddle, surveying the men as a group, then each man separately. Tall and slim, though difficult to see in the shapeless jacket and full split riding skirt she wore, her scorn touched every man. None could meet the dark green eyes, and all looked away in shame, except Pierce.
"What happened?" she asked Pierce.
"They bit off more than they could chew," Hedges snorted. "Pierce jerked Gabe here off the wagon without a word. He just rode up here, hell bent for leather, jerked him off, and started whaling on him."
"He was moving in," Pierce roared. "Gonna take the place over."
"Weren't," Hedges cried. "Just passing through on the way to your place."
"Who is he?" she asked quietly.
She asked Gabe, "Are you the man who won that deed last night?"
Gabe glared at her with such intense hatred that she turned again to Hedges with her brows drawn together in puzzlement. Hedges answered her unspoken question by chewing his lip.
"Let go of him," she told her men, looking back at Gabe. "I'm sorry this happened. I—"
"The hell you are," Gabe said, pulling away from the men and the post. "You get men to do all you want done, then act like you're innocent of their crimes."
"Why, you—" Joe said, raising his gun again.
"Joe, get away from him!" she shouted, recovering from her shock enough to stop the attack coming this time in the name of her honor.
Gabe shoved the last of the men away. "You aren't getting what you want this time," he yelled at her. "Hell will freeze over before you get that deed from me for any price!"
#4 "I want to know who Taylor is, Hedges. I want to know if I've got a rattlesnake or an angel living in my house," she asked, despite her decision the day before to stay clear of Taylor.
"Don't suppose he's rightly either. Man cain't be an angel and be human, girl," he told her with an obvious inability to look her in the eye. "Men make mistakes in their lives. You aiming to give him a bad time over that deed?"
"He said he'd give it to me. When I told him I wouldn't take it without paying for it, he accused me of being in cahoots with you," she retorted.
"You've talked to him?" he asked eagerly. "Did he apologize?"
"Yes, for all it was worth. He apologized for saying it, not for believing it. He seems to have a poor opinion of women."
"Ah, now, Gabe don't think that about you. It's something else."
"Damn it, tell me who he is."
Hedges chewed his lip, considering it before he said quietly, "Gabriel 'Angel' Taylor from Crystal Creek Bluffs." He cringed over the look of shock on her face and added lamely, "He is an angel, sort of."
"Oh, Hedges, you fool. What's wrong with you, wanting a man like that to stay here? We don't need—"
"You just hold on, young lady. You ain't got the right of that story, or you wouldn't say that. Gabe's a good boy."
"He's responsible for nine killings."
I found Little Sam’s Angel a delightful read. The lively story certainly does not miss a beat with something robust happening with every turn of the page. There is non-stop action and the multi-cast of characters paint a charming portrait of the old west. It is as if Larion Wills takes a sketch pad and ink then draws her players to unfold and come to life. I could get a whole realization of everything depicted in this beautiful told story. Read it all by clicking the link below.
Little Sam’s Angel is charming and engaging, intriguing and at times, suspenseful. It absolutely should land in your Must Read pile – and I recommend putting it right at the top.