Lone Wolf Series
The Long Way Home
Special Thanks to MItzi.
Vin Tanner snapped his head up,
turning his ears into the gentle wind. He stepped away from the
fire, concentrating on the sounds that could only be explained as nature
and eliminating them from his mind. The fine hairs on the back of
his neck stood upright and the tension caused his shoulders to go taut.
He stared out to the distant mountains with the many ridges and valleys
in between, scanning the land for the source of his concern. The
forgotten mug of coffee was raised part way to his mouth, his arm locked
at the elbow. Another gust of wind lightly stroked his long hair,
and with it, the strange garbled call that had initially alerted him.
“Ya hear that?” he asked, still facing away from the camp.
Buck Wilmington kicked a cloud of
dirt over the flailing fire, quickly extinguishing the meagre flames.
He sensed uneasiness in the softly spoken tracker, and knowing that the
younger man had an innate familiarity with nature, he didn’t dare
ignore the Texan’s concerns. He followed the scrutinising gaze
of Tanner and marched up beside the lanky man, lending his eyes and ears
to the futile search.
Buck dusted his hat on his thigh
and strained his vision until tears formed in the corners and he was
forced to wipe away the moisture. They stood still for a solid
five minutes straight, without a word spoken between them.
Wilmington glanced to his left and studied the profile of his companion,
noting the intense concentration. He glanced at the blue-grey sky
that was partially clouded and his lips tweaked upwardly at the sight of
the hawk that spiralled down to the earth. A relieved sigh
parted his lips. “Just a hawk, Vin.” Buck pointed out
the bird as it soared upon the wind currents and shaking his head, he
chuckled. Clapping the tracker on the shoulder, he started to walk
“Nope,” Tanner dismissed
quickly, barely giving the moustached man’s notion any creed.
The deep frown remained on his face, but he too, turned from his
reverie. He strode to where they had tethered the horses the
night before and proceeded to saddle Peso. He replayed the
frightened cry over in his mind – No, it hadn’t been the call of a
hawk. He knew the difference.
Buck raised an inquiring eyebrow,
but followed suit and saddled his grey without comment. He had
been looking forward to returning home. Four days on the trail
stirred at a man’s sanity. Not that he minded being out on the
road, but it was always nice to have a cold beer, a fresh shirt and a
willing woman at the end of the trail. And he was certainly
missing the company of the tender flesh. And the perfect woman
sprang to mind, bringing a sparkling glint to his eyes and an energetic
lift to his movements. He mounted the large gelding and relaxed into the
comfortable gait of the animal, eager to resume his journey home.
Tanner was already disappearing over the rim of the embankment.
At the bottom, Tanner turned in his
saddle and waited for Wilmington to join him. “Need to check out
what I heard… Could be someone’s in trouble,” Vin announced
solemnly. He could never leave, knowing that he might have been
able to help.
“Ah… it ain’t nothin’,
Vin,” Buck persisted. And it appeared from the direction Vin now
faced, that they would have to head away from Four Corners. And
that meant getting home would take even longer.
“Ain’t gonna force ya ta come.
I’ll go m’self, an’ check it out.” Tanner read the mood of
the ladies’ man easily. Buck was anxious to return to Four
Corners. And that was fine with Vin. They’d hardly known
each other long enough to trust so blindly. Why would Buck follow
Vin on his say so? With nothing to back up his claim of foul play
and nothing but a hunch to go on. The tracker lifted his shoulders
and left them fall. A grim expression clouded his normally bright
blue eyes. It didn’t take a genius to realise he was on his own
and he guided Peso around a boulder determined to proceed, no matter
what the consequences.
Wilmington glanced down the usual
trail that would take them home, and then, across the unknown track that
Tanner planned on taking. He fidgeted with the reins, and sighed
heavily. His indecision unsettled the taller man, and before
he’d reached an outcome Tanner had already left. Buck stared
bewildered at the retreating back of the former bounty hunter.
What was the rush? He wanted to scream at Vin. Couldn’t
Vin give him a few minutes to make up his mind? It was difficult
enough, without having to think under a time limit.
In the end, it wasn’t really a
choice. He’d go with Vin, if only to prove that the stubborn
Texan was wrong. Plus, he’d seen that look of desperation in
Vin’s eyes, just before he’d turned and left. There was no
telling what fool trouble could be around the corner, if Wilmington
wasn’t there to pre-empt it. “I’m coming,” he muttered
unenthusiastically, but Vin was too far ahead to hear the grumbled
words. Buck spurred his mount forward, and after a short time
edged level with the tracker.
Vin gave the ladies’ man a
sidelong look and nodded silently in gratitude. A small smile
ghosted across his mouth. He wondered why Wilmington had come.
It wasn’t like the older man wanted to. The past few days Buck
had spoken of nothing but getting back to Four Corners and hooking up
with some woman named Emily. Tanner couldn’t fathom these men he
rode with. He had been positive Buck wouldn’t join him.
The two lawmen rode in silence for
ten minutes. Neither willing to discuss why they were still riding
together. Vin was too afraid to question Buck on his unexpected
loyalty and Buck was still struggling with his urge to show Vin that the
younger man could depend on him, even knowing that Tanner was leading
them on a wild goose chase.
“Reckon we need to get up high.
That ridge yonder will work,” Vin indicated with a quick glance.
Buck groaned. With each step
the horses took, it brought them further away from Four Corners.
And Emily. And there was no telling how far Tanner would want to
go, especially once they didn’t find anything.
The tracker heard the undisguised
moan from Wilmington, and for the umpteenth time wondered why Buck was
still dogging him, especially as he was not even attempting to hide his
displeasure. He briefly wondered if Chris was at the bottom of
Buck’s attitude. Or maybe it had nothing at all to do with the
black-clad gunslinger. Whatever the reason, Tanner was beginning
to suspect Wilmington didn’t have an answer to that question himself.
Almost at the top of the ridge, Vin
dismounted. He dug through the saddlebag for his eyeglass, and
crept up to the point. Lying on his stomach with his legs crossed
at the ankles, the tracker closed one eye and looked down the scope. A
breath caught in his throat.
Wilmington approached the edge in
much the same manner, but with a little less caution, tucking his hat in
his large hand. He shook his head, and dropped carelessly beside
the tracker. He rolled on his back, not bothering to look over the
ridge, and brought his knees up. “We gonna be stayin’ here
long?” he yawned in boredom.
“Depends…” Vin hedged.
Vin looked up to the sky and
contemplated Wilmington’s question. “After it’s dark…”
“What?” Wilmington squawked,
abruptly sitting up and spinning on his backside. Had Tanner gone
mad? He crawled to the crest on his elbows and squinted over the
side. “That’s a whole posse down there,” he gasped,
surprised at the discovery. His eyes widened to saucers and he
shook his head in awe. Obviously Tanner had heard something
earlier. “Just what the hell are you plannin’ on doin’,
Tanner?” He didn’t see any point getting involved in that mess
of potential trouble.
Vin handed the eyepiece over to
Buck. “See that grove of trees,” he directed with his finger.
“Yeah…” he stretched out the
reply, wondering where Tanner was leading him. Then he adjusted
the position of the scope. “Aw Hell!” he dropped the lens and
cursed under his breath. “They dead?”
“Don’t reckon so…Least not as
yet,” he added grimly.
Two young girls were tied both hand
and foot under the stand of evergreens. Their slim bodies where
slack and unresponsive; neither girl moved when one of the overly rowdy
men passed them by.
“Damn, but they’re just
young’uns,” Buck growled. His anger surfaced quickly, and he
immediately damned his initial reluctance to follow Vin.
“Pr’obly scared to death,
too,” Vin spat. “Damn Vultures!”
Wilmington clenched his hands into
a tight fist, his knuckles turning white. He was surprised at the
vehemence in Tanner’s voice. “How many do ya reckon are down
there?” He had returned the scope to the tracker, and now wished
he still held it. Buck could see the hoard of bodies below, but
counting them proved difficult.
“Near enough ta twenty.”
“You want to stay and keep an eye
on them, while I get the others? Or would you rather I stayed?”
“I ain’t waitin’,” he
declared resolutely, “they might not have that long.”
The normally gregarious man slid
down from the crest and studied the longhaired tracker. Once again
Vin had taken him back by the harsh tone. Buck put a rein on his
own temper; he could be the voice of reason if desperate times called
for it. And Vin was acting solely on emotions at present.
Not thinking straight. “That’s a big ask, Tanner,” his face
was a mask of seriousness. “We’re gonna need more’an a
little bit of luck…”
“Yep…need a distraction…”
he suggested as a half-hearted smile touched his lips.
“What cha plannin’, Hoss?”
Buck returned the grin with a smirk of his own.
Tanner glanced down into the ravine
once more then back at Buck. He tilted his head to his left
shoulder and smirked. “They ain’t gonna know what hit them.”
The buoyant atmosphere below
increased with each passing hour. The large group of revellers
laughed and drank copious amounts of alcohol. With each swallow,
course language spewed from their mouths and their lecherous glances at
the tethered girls became more frequent. Small scuffles broke out
on the outer rims of the makeshift camp, but these came to an abrupt end
when one, or both of the parties involved, remembered the two innocent
females and anticipated the fun they were going to have at their
Occasionally, the men would edge
closer to their hostages, taunting them with gestures or groping at
their crotch. They whistled and heckled the frightened girls,
laughing when both girls shrank back cowering against the tree.
Wilmington could feel the growing
anger in his friend and hoped Tanner would stick to the plan and not go
off half-cocked. The tension radiated off the younger man.
He stiffened each time one of the revellers approached the girls.
If Buck wasn’t here, he was certain Vin would have already attempted
to rescue the girls. And he could just imagine how that would have
turned out, considering the odds of twenty to one. Tanner wasn’t
seeing things clearly at present. His focus had tunnelled solely
on the young prisoners. And it had fallen to Buck to keep a
lookout. “You want to talk about it?” There had to be a
reason for Vin’s total absorption. Buck was worried about the
girls’ safety too, but they didn’t seem to be in any immediate
danger. And their chances of rescue and escape increased with each
passing moment they managed to remain hidden. If only the girls
could hold out until dark. And Vin too, for that matter.
“What?” Vin asked, not even
bothering to shift his gaze off the valley below.
“Why are ya all het up?”
“And you ain’t?” Vin swung
around hissing in disbelief. He’d seen the anger in the tall
gunfighter. They had a job to do and he was aiming on saving those
innocents. He thought they shared the same intentions.
“Yeah, I’m mad! But
it’s not the same.”
Vin rolled back on his middle,
drawing the scope to his face. “Buck!” he growled, as the
ladies’ man pulled the eyepiece out of his hand and tucked it under
“I can see it! Vin I know
what I’m looking at! Hell, I’ve seen the same look
staring back at me for the past four years in Chris’ eyes.”
“You don’t know what yer
talking about, Buck! And this ain’t got nothing to do with what
Chris went through.”
“You reckon? You plannin’
on getting us both killed to save those girls? ‘Cause I don’t
fancy dying just yet!”
Vin shifted uncomfortably under
Buck’s scrutinizing gaze. “I got it under control,” he
assured. Taking a deep breath he stared insistently at Wilmington.
“Can I have the scope back?”
“Sure.” He handed it
over, and returned to his mount, checking the rigging. He wondered
if he had the right to press Vin on the matter, or whether he was better
off leaving well alone. He could see a range of emotions
cluttering the normally quiet tracker’s façade. Maybe he
wasn’t the one Vin could open up to. Maybe Vin didn’t trust
The sun had dropped behind the
sloping hills and the long shadows of dusk stretched over the plains.
With every minute past, the night grew older and the shadows soon
mingled, joining together to form a deep hue of darkness. A
smattering of early stars dotted the horizon and the small sliver of a
moon crested low, but under the depths of clouds. Only the lone
fire in the centre of the camp gave some light to the flat area below
They needed to time their attack to
the exact moment so it would benefit them all, because once they broke
cover and revealed themselves, there was no going back.
“Now,” Tanner announced, not
bothering to wait and see if Buck was ready. He had taken a few
steps and almost stumbled at the restraint.
Buck snaked his hand around the
tracker’s arm, pulling him back to around face him. “Not
Vin’s eyes flared and he yanked
his arm free. “It’s dark.”
“And it will be that much darker
in another twenty minutes. We wait,” he reasoned.
Vin dropped impatiently back to the
ground. He’d waited all day, could another few minutes hurt?
He bowed his head between his shoulders, sending a silent prayer to
Josiah’s God. If ever they needed help, it was now. Buck
patted his back, a calming gesture he gratefully acknowledged with a
His stomach fluttered and he
vaguely recalled he’d not eaten since that morning. He was not
hungry though; it was nerves that twisted his gut unmercifully.
Vin checked his mare’s leg and the knife in his boot. He was
prepared. Now he only had to wait for Buck’s okay. The
last quarter of an hour had stretched interminably.
Wilmington watched Vin’s slumped
shoulders. He knew there was something wrong, something that
predetermined the tracker’s hasty actions. Something that he had
no idea about, and that could undermine the outcome of tonight’s raid.
He’d not been able to convince the tracker to talk about whatever it
was that was worrying him. He hoped Vin’s unusually cavalier
attitude would in no way hamper their rescue attempt. He sighed
wearily. “Time to go, Vin.”
Tanner nodded. He slipped
into the night, disappearing silently down the slope.
Buck only waited a few seconds then
headed down the opposite side of the ridge. A small slip of gravel
crunched under the heel of his boots and he winced at the overly loud
noise. He hunkered to the ground, listening. He waited in
the still shadows for a moment and when nobody came to investigate, Buck
continued. He needn’t have worried about the revellers hearing
him, as they were very raucous and didn’t bother with posting a guard,
but he was cautious just the same. He slipped into the outskirts
of their camp and ducked between the horses.
The former bounty hunter circled
the camp, then spiralled inwards to come up at the backs of the young
girls. He didn’t want to frighten them any more than they
already were, but he needed them to know that he and Buck were there to
help them. He also needed them to remain still, even once he
released them, and he couldn’t have the monsters on them before they
escaped. All of them. Yes! This time they would all
escape to safety. No one was going to die. Not unless they
deserved it, he amended.
Vin cupped his hand in front of his
mouth and made a soft sound that resembled a prairie hen. He heard
the girls move, twisting around nervously to identify the sound.
“Name’s Vin,” he whispered. “No need to be afraid. We’re
gonna get you outta here. You girls have names?” he asked,
creeping closer to the back of the tree. Slipping his knife down
the ropes he freed their arms. “Don’t move none,” he
ordered, “need you to pretend that you’re still tied up. Can
you do that?” A soft whimper met his ears and he bit the inside
of his cheek. Damn, if they had already been hurt, someone was
going to pay!
“I’m Cally, and and…” she
stuttered nervously, hiccuping through tears that streamed down her
bruised face. “…and my sister Sharn.”
“Well, they’re right pretty
names,” Vin smiled. “How old are you girls?”
The same voice spoke, Cally
answered. “I’m thirteen, but my birthday is next week, so then
I’ll be a year older.” They sounded so young!
“I’m twelve,” Sharn spoke for
the first time.
Vin nodded, he needed to release
the girls’ feet. “Can either of you swing your legs closer?”
He heard a shuffle and then saw the first pair of bare feet peek around
the trunk of the tree. He'd have to be quick. “Good
girl,” he praised, not knowing which of the girls he’d just
released. Tanner made short work of it, slicing through the
hessian rope. “Leave the ropes sitting over your feet, don’t
want them to get suspicious and come over here to check. Who’s
“Me,” Sharn giggled nervously.
Once both siblings were released
Vin crouched, impatiently waiting for Buck. He leant around the
trunk of the tree and peered valiantly past the revellers. He
frowned. Where was Buck? “How’d you girls come to
be in the company of these troublemakers?”
“Pa pa died. Then Uncle
Hedley said we had to earn our keep. When we couldn’t get
jobs in town, he sold us to Mr. Dugan,” Cally sniffed. “He’s
the one with only one eye,” she shuddered in horror, trembling against
Vin searched the campsite for the
man Cally described and found him at the centre of attention. Even
from this distance, and though it was dark, Dugan was easily discernible
with the leather binding across his face covering the deformity.
The drunken man weaved a wobbly path, circling his group of cohorts and
drinking directly from the bottle. Again, Tanner felt the surge of
anger that gripped him. He sneered at the drunken monster.
How could these other men be a party to such revulsion? He’d
watched them throughout the day and none of them were worthy of
absolution. He closed his eyes and was struck with the horror of
another lifetime - a time that he had no control over, but a nightmare
that was forever etched on his soul. He gasped as the painful
memory tore through him. A choking sound filled the void.
This was not the time to remember unwanted memories.
Vin glanced over to where the
horses were tethered, and through watery eyes, saw a dark outline moving
among them. He hoped the silhouette proved to be Buck. He
roughly wiped the moisture off his face.
A relieved sigh escaped, when a
shout, followed by a clap of dynamite exploding, filled the night air.
Tanner spared a quick glace to his right, pleased to see all the rioters
with their backs to him. He quickly moved around the tree and
urged the girls to follow. He needed to move fast, as they were
bound to discover the girls’ disappearance before long.
A mad rush of horseflesh bolted and
stampeded through the inner circle of the camp, effectively cutting the
group into two. The drunks belatedly lunged at their freed mounts,
but most galloped off and evaded the capturing hands. Several men
lost their footing and succumbed under the hooves of the frightened
beasts. The sudden confusion had many of the men drawing their
weapons and firing them. It only served to frighten the horses
Buck whistled loudly, boldly adding
to the confusion of gunfire and startled horses. He glanced once
at the tree where the girls had been and, satisfied that they were no
longer there, he presumed Vin would get them to safety. Wilmington
struck a match against his boot, a thin spark of light flared a minute
before he lit the fuse. He paused a moment then threw the stick of
dynamite into the melee.
Wilmington whooped with delight and
yelled, then hightailed it up the ridge. Half way along he threw
another, his last stick, into the chaos. He crouched, running in
the semi erect position, toward his mount. Buck stumbled over the
rutted surface, falling face first into the dust. He sucked in a
harsh breath as a bullet past harmlessly over his head, and swallowed
thankfully that he lost his footing when he did. Had he been
standing, the bullet might have struck him. He hesitantly crawled
to his feet, and checking over his shoulder, he raced forward.
Dugan stood dumbfounded as the
chaos surrounded him. He searched the outer rims for movements,
but with little moon, and fading campfire to guide his weakened
eyesight, he found nothing unusual. What he did discover was the absence
of his future source of pleasure. Both girls were missing.
He took a pre-emptive step toward the tree, but was cut off as another
mount reared before him. The one eyed bandit stumbled, falling
awkwardly to his knees. Clenching his fist and punching the air he
bellowed. “They are mine! I paid good money for them!”
He shot wildly at the darkened shadows along the edge of camp, screaming
with rage. The gun emptied of six bullets and he threw the weapon
away angrily. He surged on unsteady legs, and pulled a colt from
the holster of another man. He roughly pushed aside the colt’s
owner and when the man attempted to rise off the ground, Dugan put a
bullet in his leg. He then emptied the barrel of the stolen gun
into the night.
Drunken shouts and cries heralded
their escape and the sound of gunfire and dynamite split the night,
topped off with the pounding echo of the terrified horses’ hooves
thumping the earthen bowl. Vin urged the girls up the slope and to where
he’d left his mount. He hadn’t seen Buck since he’d left the
camp and he prayed the older man managed to escape. He hoisted the
girls into the saddle and quietly led them down the opposite side of the
A short time later, Buck reined his
mount in behind them, a gregarious smile parting his lips.
Vin returned the smile, and glanced
beyond Wilmington’s shoulder. “Anyone behind you?”
Wilmington chuckled. “Nah!
They’re still trying to catch the horses, and work out what’s
happening. Be a long while before any of them are up to setting up
a chase. But I wouldn’t be hanging around here for too long,
just the same. That fella with the eye-patch sure was a cranky ole
bastard, like he’d fallen in a cactus patch.”
“Didn’t plan to, Buck.
And he was Dugan. He bought the girls off their uncle.”
Vin mimicked the snarl that escaped Buck’s mouth. “Yeah, a
real nice arrangement,” Tanner added sarcastically, “for him.”
“He might cause trouble for them
girls if he ever finds ‘em.”
“He won’t,” Vin predicted
confidently. “Besides, there’s gonna be seven of us to protect
them in the future.”
“How are they?” the ladies’
man frowned in concern at the quiet siblings.
“They’ll be fine, now.
I want to get a little further away, then I’ll double back and cover
“Sounds like a plan to me,
The sun had not yet risen, but the
early morning glow from below the horizon, stretched up its waking arms
into the dawning sky. The slow procession marked a path across the
forbidding plains. Later in the day, the group would come to Four
Cally and Sharn huddled together on
Vin’s mount. They cast wavering glances at the men who had freed
them, still shocked by the change of events. Until they reached
Four Corners, which was where Tanner had spoken of taking them, they
would put their trust on hold.
Vin didn’t blame them.
After all, they were young, and their limited experience with the males
in their lives was not the best. He’d felt it to be less
traumatic for the siblings to share the one horse, and not separate
them. Although, that left the tracker sharing a saddle on Buck’s
Vin jabbed Wilmington in the side,
and smiled innocently at the older man when he winced and turned
accusing eyes on Tanner. Vin shrugged, and a roguish grin lit his
features as the childish giggles welcomed his ears.
“What was that for?”
Vin smiled conspiratorially at
Cally; she sat in front of her sister. “Well, you’re takin’
up all the room on the saddle, figured it was time to get back some more
room.” He jostled in the seat to emphasize his plight.
Buck levelled a grin of his own
over his shoulder to the girls. “I can make plenty more room,”
he warned Vin, and glanced poignantly at the ground.
“You gonna push me off?” Tanner
“Reckon so if you take up any
more space, and don’t quit wriggling.”
“Then you’re lucky you ain’t
sharing with Josiah or Nathan.”
Wilmington chuckled softly and
winked at the sisters. “Least I could count on them to sit
still.” He knew that Vin was attempting to draw the youngsters
out of their silence and was pleased with their combined effort.
“Reckon we’ll be home soon.”
Vin held the leading rope from
Peso, trailing the black gelding a pace behind the grey mare.
Wilmington rolled his shoulders,
attempting to ride out the ache of the long ride. He brushed his
moustache with his fingers and licked at his lips. He had so many
burning questions he wanted to ask the tracker, but he didn’t want to
offend the Texan by asking.
Vin knew that the gregarious man
wanted to talk; he could feel it in his tense posture. It was only
time before Wilmington would have wanted an explanation.
“Aw hell. You can tell me
to mind me business, but…”
“You want to know why I acted
like a greenhorn?” Tanner finished. Buck nodded. The
tracker rubbed at his jaw and swallowed the rising bile.
“Happened a long time ago, Buck.” He still wasn’t decided if
he wanted to bring the subject back to the forefront of his mind.
The raw emotions were exposed, and the situation with the girls
uncovered a lot of unwanted memories that he’d thought were long
“If it’s too personal, ya
don’t need to do this.”
“No. It’s all right.
‘Bout time I told someone. Might as well be you,” he grinned
weakly at the older man.
Tanner twisted in the seat to see
if the girls were listening. If they were, they gave no signs.
They didn’t need to hear his pitiful tale. He sighed deeply.
“Don’t remember ‘xactly how it all happened,” he spoke, barely
above a whisper. “There were four of us - me, Lon, Eneko
and Tainee. She was only four, and so little,” he croaked.
“So what happened?”
“Weren’t none of us family.
Lon was the oldest he was ten. Then there was me, Eneko was seven
and then Tainee.”
“Sounds like you had a soft spot
for the little girl,” Buck teased lightly. He had a sneaking
suspicion about what Vin was going to say and almost wished he hadn’t
prompted the Texan to reveal his past.
Vin snorted. “We all
did,” he remembered wistfully. “I remember waking up in this
stink-hole of a shed. The others were already inside. I
don’t know how the other kids got there, or when, or for that matter,
how I even arrived. It’s not something I remember.
They’d come and go, leaving us food and water, but they wouldn’t let
us out of that shed. And Tainee asked tirelessly. And
we all wanted to go back to our homes and families. They taunted
us, pointing and laughing at us. Running their filthy hands up our
legs and holding us to the floor and slobbering over our faces.
I’d been there for two days, when they took Eneko away; he never came
back, but I can imagine what they did to him before he died,” he added
with a shudder.
“Oh, God, Vin,” Buck gasped in
horror. “You don’t have ta keep going…”
Tanner didn’t hear him.
“After Eneko left, Lon and I decided to get out of there. And we
did. We got safely away, took Tainee with us, and we just ran for
our lives. We kept on running, we were so scared that those men
would be coming after us.”
“Sounds like you did good,”
“Yeah, real good,” Vin sneered.
“Tainee got sick, and there
weren’t nothing Lon or I could do about it.” He didn’t need
to say that the young Indian girl died.
Wilmington sighed, shaking his head
in sympathy. “You weren’t ta blame. You got her away
from those sick bastards. It was just her time,” he reasoned.
“Don’t make it any less
“Nope, don’t s’pose it
does.” There was a long drawn out silence between the two men.
Only the steady fall of the mounts’ hooves on the hardened path was
heard. “Seeing those young'uns tired up like that, bring it all
Buck glanced at the sisters, huddled under the warm blanket and smiled. “They’re safe, Vin. Thanks to you.”
Tanner followed Buck’s gaze and a ghostly smile crossed his features. “We did it together.”
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