A Gunslinger Never Forgets (Preview)


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Chapter One

If any rider had passed the man lying in the red sand under the sizzling sun, he probably would have thought the man was dead and not bothered to stop. The tall man was face down in the sand, unmoving. There was no horse nearby, no animal anywhere near the body. If the passing rider had looked closely, he would have spotted a mass of blood near the man’s forehead, indicating a bullet to the head. Grizzled riders in the West knew a headshot wound was most often fatal. A wound to the side or shoulder could be survived, but the cranium protected gray brain cells that didn’t operate well when exposed to lead.

So, the rider would have spurred his horse on, anxious to make it through the desert before the sun escaped the clouds and shone brightly on both men and beasts. Currently, the sky was filled with thick black rain clouds. They rumbled deeply, and a white bolt of lightning flashed through the darkness just as rain began to fall. Large drops of water plopped loudly when they hit the dirt. The wind kicked up, blowing wet desert sand around the body. Thunder crashed again in the distance and seemingly increased the velocity of the storm. Rain pounded on the cowboy’s back, forming small pools of water around him. The blood on his forehead coagulated to give his face a red shield against the elements.

The first sign of life came when he opened his eyes briefly, groaned, and closed them again. Then, he rose up slightly and shook his head. His wounded brain tried to register recent events. For a second, it appeared the man would simply fall back onto the wet sand. But then, straining with the effort, he turned over. He raised his hand to his head and touched the wound, then looked at the blood on his fingertips. He could move but, when he did, he ached with pain.

When he rolled over, he noticed he had been laying on a small bag and a canteen. Though the rain fell heavy around him, thumping the once-dry desert sand, he was thirsty. He raised the canteen and took a huge gulp. The water filling his parched lungs helped give him some energy, and he looked around to realize his horse should have been standing or grazing on the few bits of grass in the sand. But he saw no horse.

His brain seemed to be working slowly. Perhaps the wound had made thinking difficult. But he knew he needed some shelter and a doctor. Which meant he needed to find a town. Even with the wound, he knew most doctors did not have offices in the desert. He narrowed his eyes and saw a line of hills not too far away. He grabbed the bag and the canteen and struggled to stand up.

At first, his legs were weak. His knees buckled and he almost collapsed back on the sand. A moment later, his legs strengthened. The throbbing in his head even subsided. He looked toward the mountains again and felt confident he could make it.

It wasn’t a hard rain, but an almost gentle one as he put one foot in front of the other. It occurred to him then, as he began walking toward the hills, that he didn’t know who he was or where he needed to go. He had forgotten his name and his background. The thought was frightening. But he took a deep breath and kept walking. Somehow, instinctively, he felt certain his memory might come back, in time — his first goal was to get to shelter.

His shirt was soaked now, as were his pants. He had found his hat and put it on his head to protect it from the raindrops. He paused and looked around again. There was no one in the distance; no one north, south, east or west. He shook his head. He shouldn’t expect any riders during a rainstorm in the desert. Smart riders would seek shelter — and if there were any dumb riders in the desert, they had died long ago. Anyone dumb enough to make mistakes in the West, and stupid enough to make mistakes in a desert, didn’t live long. He did remember a gunshot and felt the burning on his forehead. He must have made a mistake, he thought, giving a sour grin.

He had been groaning with almost every step, but the pain had started to ease. He could take two to three steps, sometimes even four, without his body screaming at him to stop. The rain had made the ground soft, and his boots easily trod over it. The hills looked closer. He tried to recall some incident, some action that would explain his situation, but he couldn’t. Everything was a blank before he’d woken up wounded, face down in the sand.

Clearly, someone had left him for dead. It was an easy mistake to make when a bullet had skimmed off his skull, leaving its telltale blood stain. Perhaps he had made a mistake, but so had the man who shot him. You could never assume a man was dead — you always had to go over to check. He had worked as a bounty hunter, and that was one of the golden rules of the profession.

A bounty hunter.

He jerked, halting his watery trek. How did he know that? He couldn’t remember many details about the profession, but the knowledge that he was a bounty hunter had just popped into his head. He was sure of it. Maybe some guy he had brought in had recently been released from prison and wanted revenge. That would explain the bullet wound. But what was he doing out in this dessert? Looking for another wanted man?

He glanced up. He was closer to the hills now, and he spotted a possible cave. The rain had slacked. Desert storms could be brief, he knew that. But his strength was leaving him again. He estimated it was about fifty yards to the cave, where he could rest. He sipped from the canteen again then surged forward, ducking into the cave once he reached it. He collapsed onto the ground before pulling himself up and easing back against the cave wall.

After relaxing for a couple of minutes, he pulled out the bag he carried with him. Inside was a smaller bag containing jerky and other dried food. He was hungry, and he bit into it eagerly. It tasted pretty good, so he took another large bite. Probably at this time and in this weather, any type of food would have tasted good, he admitted to himself. Beggars couldn’t be choosers. He took one more bite and stuck his hand back into the bag. Some other dried bits of food were in there, but he thought he also felt bullets. He pulled out a small bag. He was right.

“If I had a gun, these might come in handy,” he said, smiling.

His hand went to his holster. He knew it was empty, but he wanted to check again. Maybe someone had come over to check if he was dead and thought he had stopped breathing, so they had stolen his gun. He stuck his fingers in the pouch again and felt paper this time. He pulled out a letter addressed to a woman named Jean. He couldn’t remember who Jean was, but her address was on the letter. She was in a town named Waco Flats. The information meant nothing to him, but if Jean was in that town and he had written a letter to her, he decided she must know who he was. If he could just find the town and find Jean, she could identify him.

Of course, he had no knowledge in which direction he would find Waco Flats. Maybe that would come back to him, he thought. If he could remember he was a bounty hunter, perhaps he would remember where Waco Flats was located. It was a little hope for him, he thought.

Night was encroaching. The light gradually darkened as he sipped from his canteen again and chewed a few more bites of the jerky. The walking and the bullet wound had worn him out. Still, he wondered if he should build a small fire. While it was hot in a desert during the day, when the night wind came, the temperature could drop dramatically. There might be wood by the entrance to the cave.

In the end, he decided against it. He didn’t have much strength to go find wood., and the cave would probably be sufficient against any coolness of the night. Besides, he needed sleep. When he woke up, he hoped to remember something more about his life than just being a bounty hunter.

Maybe he would remember his home address. That would be a good place to start.

He slept until late in the morning, or what felt late for him. He sensed he usually wakened about dawn. But the sun was already low in the sky when he walked to the cave entrance and looked out. He saw nothing of interest. Just sand and rocks. He wanted the quickest route to Waco Flats, but that was difficult to find since he didn’t know where his destination was.

Back inside the cave, he ate some more of the dried food and washed it down. He had spied a small watering hole near the cave so at least he could refill his canteen and wouldn’t die of thirst. He could die of numerous other things in the desert — scorpions, snakes, bandits, falling rocks, the heat — but at least he wouldn’t be thirsty. His head didn’t hurt as much this morning; maybe it was even healing. He assumed it was. If not, it would have already killed him.

He walked to the mouth of the cave again and considered his options. The previous day’s work had exhausted him and caused him to sleep too long. In the desert, one should ride — or walk — early in the day and find shelter during the heat of the afternoon. Now, the temperature was already heating up. He had water but he also needed shade. He spotted some random trees here and there, but not a great deal of shelter. He would hole up at noon and then start walking again in the evening. Maybe he could see riders. That was his hope. In the desert, a horse was a necessity — and even then, you had to take care. A desert was a place of death, especially if your transportation was just your two legs. It was risky to walk. But he had no choice.

He was just about to step out when he thought it might be better to walk at night. But his supply of dry food wouldn’t last for long. He needed to walk some in the morning. He sighed and lifted his boot and took one step away from the cave, and followed that with another step.

His memory hadn’t started up this morning. There were no new revelations about who he was or where he lived. As he walked, he focused on the name Jean. He had to know her; he had written her a letter. He knew her name and she had to know his. As he passed a sagebrush, he wondered if any cowboy might be riding his way. He could get directions to Waco Flats. Hopefully, the rider wouldn’t laugh and tell him it was too far to walk.

But at least his head didn’t hurt… much. He had poured water over the wound this morning and did his best to clean it. It felt better, but he knew he still needed a doctor to look at it. Whoever had shot him wasn’t bad with a gun. He hadn’t missed by much.

He took another drink of water as he studied the landscape. Even though he had survived being shot, he knew the odds were still against him. Men who don’t know where they were going in the desert often wound up dead. You would see their whitened bones as you rode through the sands. He had a full canteen, but often a full canteen wouldn’t last long in the heat. And he didn’t want to start until he was sure he had a good chance of still breathing at the end of the day.

He could see some brush and a small watering hole in the distance, but he could make that in fifteen minutes — then, he had to worry about the rest of the day. Would he find another watering spot this way? He’d need a place to camp during the heat of the day. A few trees, a cave or something to give him shelter from the white-hot sun.

Every once in a while, he thought he saw or sensed something familiar, as if he had been here before. He assumed he had; this couldn’t be the first time he had traveled this desert. But nothing stayed in his memory, the thoughts floating away like a butterfly in the wind. He sighed. He just had to pick a direction and hope. If he guessed wrong, his bones might wind up scattered across the desert sands.

But what was he doing here? If he was a bounty hunter, was he hunting an outlaw? That could be one explanation. He lifted his hat, shook his head, and slipped it back on. The sun was climbing higher and it was getting hotter. He wanted to find some type of shelter before too much longer.

Jean. He wished he could remember Jean. And there was another name on the tip of his tongue. At times, he was about to remember it, but then it faded away. Who was it? Did he have a partner? He couldn’t be sure, but he sensed he did. Maybe that was the name he was searching for. Maybe his partner was looking for him. But if he did have a partner, how had they gotten separated? Had his partner been shot, too?

Maybe his partner hadn’t survived.

He felt sweat forming on his face and sliding down his jaw, flowing over the stubble that had started to grow there. He squinted. There was no relief in sight. No trees or no watering hole. His shirt was becoming damp with his perspiration.

“There are easier ways to die,” he said out loud, his voice scratchy from lack of use. “Dying of thirst is a tough way to go.”

It was a pity, he thought, that you didn’t get to choose your way of exiting from the world.

Chapter Two

“Sheriff, you need to form a posse and hunt for Aaron. It’s long past time he should have been back,” Jean Lyons demanded in a frantic tone. “He could be dying out there.”

Sheriff Ryker sighed. The silver star on his chest looked a bit faded, but he wasn’t. He was in his thirties, stood tall at six-foot-two, and knew the West like the back of his hand. He could shoot straight, and he had a dedication to the law few could match.

“The desert is a big place and we don’t know which way to look,” he admitted. “Most of the men who could volunteer have regular jobs and families to support. I can’t call up a posse when I have no hint of where a missing man might be.”

Jean groaned, as if his words had pierced her heart. “But we can’t just do nothing. He should have been back by now.”

“I thought his partner was leading a search party.”

“I don’t trust him,” Jean confessed. “Xander is nice enough, and he’s been with Aaron for a while, but there’s something about him. Call it a woman’s intuition, but I’ve never completely trusted him. Maybe that’s not the right phrase. I’ve never been completely comfortable with him.”

“I understand how worried you are, Jean. But Xander is out looking for his partner, and I’m not going to do anything until his party gets back and tells me what they have found, if anything. Then, at least I’ll know what part of the territory they have already searched. Besides, sometimes men just get delayed. Aaron might ride up as we speak and wonder what all the commotion is about.”

“I hope so,” Jean said. But her anxious features told the sheriff that she didn’t think her fiancé would be riding in any time soon. “Besides, how could Xander lose him? They’re partners. How do you lose your partner?”

“They were riding a rough trail. It’s easy to get lost or get separated,” the sheriff replied.

He wouldn’t tell Jean, but he had been wondering the same thing. Although what he’d said was true, more than one man had been lost in the desert and more than one partner had gotten himself separated from his riding pal, if he was honest, he didn’t trust Xander completely either. But he couldn’t say why. He hadn’t seen the man committing any crime. But he just wasn’t a man who evoked trust. The sheriff thought he would never want Xander as a deputy, and he wondered why Aaron took him on as a partner.


Xander, along with three other men who had joined in his search for Aaron, rode back toward town. The other three men liked Aaron and had been saddened when they saw no trace of him in their search. Ben Warton had lamented that although Aaron know how to survive in the wilderness, whether in a forest or in a desert, the fact they hadn’t heard from him was a bad sign. The man might be incapacitated, Warton had said, and if he were wounded, the chances of his survival went down with every passing day. The two others shared his concerns.

Xander did not. The other three men were worried Aaron might be dead — Xander was worried his partner might have somehow survived.

They halted their horses at a water trough next to the sheriff’s office. Sheriff Ryker walked out, followed by Aaron’s fiancée, Jean.

“Didn’t find him?” Ryker said.

“Didn’t see hide nor hair of him,” Warton admitted.

“Don’t understand that. There hasn’t been a storm near here. He couldn’t have gotten lost.”

“I know, but he has disappeared,” Warton said.

Xander crossed his arms. “What worries me, Sheriff, is that Aaron and I have caught a lot of outlaws and turned them in to the local sheriffs. We had to shoot a few, too. Maybe someone wants vengeance, or a friend of one of those we put in prison is holding a grudge. Maybe he was tailing us and bushwhacked Aaron.”

“No, no,” Jean said, shaking her head. “It can’t be. I know Aaron is alive.”

“It’s probably too late to go out again tonight,” Xander said, “but I’ll keep looking.”

“I’ll go with you,” Warton offered.

Xander frowned. That was the one thing he didn’t want — another rider when he went to pick up Aaron’s body. If he refused, though, the man might get suspicious. Jean, a weary and worried look on her face, walked slowly back to her home. Xander watched her go. She was a very good-looking woman. With Aaron was out of the way, he thought perhaps he might have a chance with her.

“Don’t worry about it, Ben – it would be better for all of us if you rest up so we can head out first thing in the morning,” Xander said, hoping he sounded genuine. “Besides, I likely won’t be out too much later.”

Warton nodded, though he hesitated briefly before doing so. When he turned to head back to his house, Xander took his horse to the livery stable and asked for another one.

“You going out again tonight?” the owner said.

Xander smiled. “Aaron was my friend and my partner — we’ve been working together for years. Can’t just leave him out there. I’m going to keep searching. The horse might be worn out, but I’m not. There are a few hours of daylight left.” He unhitched his saddle and lifted it from the horse’s back.

“Take that gray stallion over there. He’s hasn’t been out much lately, the ride will do him good. He’s a good mount. He won’t buck you off.”

“Thanks,” Xander said.

He mounted the horse and spurred it toward the door. After he rode about a mile, he turned sharply to the right and headed for the place where he’d last seen Aaron’s body.

It was true that the two men had been partners, but Xander had decided it was time to end their partnership. He had fallen in love with Jean, finding himself increasingly attracted to her the more he was around her. He’d tried to ignore his growing desire, but there was no talking himself out of it. He needed to get rid of Aaron if he wanted any chance of being with Jean.

Aaron had been totally surprised to see Xander pull his gun. He’d stared at his partner with a baffled expression, still baffled even when the bullet had slammed into his head.

“Entirely too trusting,” Xander had said, smiling. “You had no instincts, partner. There’s more than one man who wouldn’t partner with me because they didn’t trust me. They had instincts. But I’m happy you were such a fool.”

He halted the horse for a moment to get his bearings, then rode on.

“Jean is a lovely woman. I know she’ll need comforting when she finds out you’re dead. That’s a tough thing, to lose someone you love. And I’ll be there to comfort her,” Xander had told his former partner’s body just before he’d ridden off.

He spurred his horse. Aaron’s body was lying in the dirt nearby. He would take the body back to the sheriff and attend the subsequent funeral. It was the least he could do after spending several years as Aaron’s partner. But he hoped the preacher wouldn’t drone on. He didn’t want to spend too much time there. Still, it would be the perfect time to express his sympathies to Jean and ask her if there was anything he could do to help.

He finally approached the spot where Aaron’s body would be — just beyond the next curve. But when he turned, he saw no body. Xander frowned and climbed down from his horse. He scoured the ground, noticing a decent-sized bloodstain on the sand. But Aaron was nowhere to be seen. Angrily, he grabbed a handful of the reddish sand and tossed it back to the ground. He kicked at the sand viciously, but that didn’t make Aaron’s body appear either. He looked around rapidly.

Where was he? Had Aaron manage to get up and stumble off before he’d died? The man was strong. Could he have walked a half-mile or more before collapsing and dying? Xander tied his horse to a tree limb as he began searching the area. He didn’t see any footprints, but that was to be expected. There had been a rain since the day Aaron had been shot — it was surprising to Xander that the sand still bore evidence of Aaron’s injury. But Aaron had a head wound. He couldn’t have walked far.

Xander felt the echoes of panic. It rattled his brain, caused sweat to form on the palm of his hands. When a man was dead, you expected him to stay where he fell. So, what could have happened? If Aaron somehow, miraculously, made it to town, he would tell the sheriff what happened. Xander cursed. When he walked over to take Aaron’s gun, he should have checked to see if the man was dead. He had assumed the head wound had sent his former partner to the promised land. He squeezed his fists and paced nervously on the ground. He couldn’t have gone far, not in his shape. Perhaps he had collapsed trying to walk back to town.

He shook his head.

Aaron had reservoirs of strength and courage. If Xander wanted him dead, he knew he’d have to shoot his former partner again. This time, he would put the bullet in the man’s heart. That would take care of him.

But where was he? Xander thought about that question for a few minutes. There was only desert for miles. The man was obviously not dead. He’d gotten up and had started walking. But where could he have gone? Into the desert? If the bullet wound didn’t kill him, the desert would. Even non-wounded men had died in the desert. He took a deep breath. He might be worried about nothing. What he had started, the desert might finish — and then he wouldn’t have to worry about anything. He stuck his boot in the stirrup and climbed back on his horse.

“A Gunslinger Never Forgets” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

After becoming a bounty hunter, Aaron Hardie never expected his life to be calm. Unlike some other bounty hunters, he is not a back-shooter but always gives the outlaws the chance to turn themselves in. Even if he knows that by choosing this tactic he is dicing with death, he always takes the risk. No matter what the cost, he uses his bravery and skills in order to fulfill his one and only dream; save enough money to buy a horse ranch and then marry his sweetheart, Jean. Little does he know that a vicious enemy has other plans for him… Will Aaron manage to take down the mysterious person who stands in the way of his happiness?

One fateful day Aaron wakes up in the middle of nowhere, facing down the burning sand with a bullet wound in the head. Although he survives this near-death experience, the bullet takes his memory. All of a sudden he has no idea who he is, nor any recollection of Jean and the future ranch. As luck would have it, he is found by some of the townspeople who take him back to Waco Flats, his hometown. However, no matter how hard he tries, he still can’t remember a single thing about his past life as a gunslinger. As if that wasn’t enough, he is entirely unaware that the man who wants him dead is riding by his side… Will Aaron regain his lost memory or will he be doomed to get the final blow by his secret enemy?

While Aaron is trapped in the web of his lost memories, he discovers yet another threat. The Comanches are preparing for one last, grand battle against the white man. Knowing that the days of the Comanche are drawing to a close, they want to go out in a final blaze of glory and blood. If Aaron finally escapes the shadowy man who wants him dead, will he survive the bloody battle that brings chaos to his town? Or will he fail in using his gun skills when they’re most urgently needed?

An action-packed story, featuring complex and fascinating characters, and twists and turns that will take your breath away. A must-read for fans of Western action and romance.

“A Gunslinger Never Forgets” is a historical adventure novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cliffhangers, only pure unadulterated action.

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Grab my new series, "Legends of the Lawless Frontier", and get 2 FREE novels as a gift! Have a look here!

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