Honor-Bound by the Badge (Preview)


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Chapter One

Kirk Willis pulled up his jacket collar against the encroaching chill, a broad-winged hawk crying out above him. The spring sun had set over the northern part of Texas, already being called the panhandle of the newly ordained Lone Star State. The nights were still cold, but the days were bearable. His speckled stallion was strong in its fourth year, nearing the prime of its life.

It was a dangerous journey through the crags and crevasses of the Caprock Escarpment, a long, mountainous regions running diagonally across the area to separate the High Planes of the Llano from the rolling plains. It was a good place to hide, a good place to kill, and a good place to die. Red yucca and rock rose clung to the ground, the only trees the low-lying mountain laurel. They were hiding big rattlers, Western diamondback and copperhead. Any one of them could fell his horse and render Kirk useless and essentially hopeless.

As night fell, those slithering predators would come out of hiding, and most would go about their business stalking reasonable prey. Others would strike out at anything. There was no way to know until it was too late.

Kirk remained calm. He’d been tracking George “Greedy” McCreedy and his gang for weeks, and they seemed to have no idea. Their tracks indicated un unhurried gait. They were headed north, likely to meander out of the state and into the Utah Territory on into the other territories, still unincorporated. They didn’t seem bothered by what they’d done or what they were wanted for, and Kirk knew they might have no idea that a price had put on their heads.

The price was higher for McCreedy than his men, which wasn’t uncommon in Kirk’s ten years in the open, on the trail. And the money would have good purpose both in the wild and in nearby towns like Lubbock, Amarillo, and others.

Kirk couldn’t help think about towns like those, where women were sometimes soft and pretty, where beds were often comfortable and life could be pleasant, at ease. He’d been too long hunting bounties, his youth fast absorbed by the rigors of the prairies, the mountains, areas all over the continent. It was time for a better life, a milder life, a life of stability.

A life of love.

Kirk had accepted years before that the life of a bounty hunter would be of no interest to any woman worthy being called a man’s wife. It was dangerous; it meant years of separation, of vulnerability to both parties. The bounty hunter was married to his gun, his horse, and his keen senses.

But settling in any number of towns would change all that. Kirk was still capable of fathering children, of making a good living in more civilized climes. There were positions available for men of his skills; there were women who would also be available for men of his skills.

Just one more bounty, he told himself. Just a few more notches on my gun belt will give me more than enough to start again. Maybe a little shop, or a private service, hire out for local work as necessary, perhaps become the sheriff. But first, Greedy McCreedy and his men have to comply with the law, one way or the other.

The broken branches on the yaupon holly told him that he was close, and the increasingly dark sky brought out the glow of their campfire, rising up from the top of the slope. Darkness disguised him, but Kirk knew his horse would soon give him away.

Under normal circumstances, Kirk would have been cautious, shot from as far away as possible. This time, he had to be close. He had to be sure he’d found the right three men and wasn’t about to slaughter innocent people.

He also needed McCreedy alive, which was hard to guarantee with a night shot. And riding up on the gang, McCreedy’s gang or any other, was a dangerous proposition in any case, day or night, bounty hunter or not.

Kirk had seen enough of the new nation and its denizens to know that so many interactions were ill-intentioned. It was true that people met and fell in love, that they formed friendships and did business deals. Kirk himself knew the local sheriffs well, as he often collected his bounties from them.

But in the overwhelming majority, it seemed to him, whenever two people faced each other, one was a criminal and the other a victim in one way or another. This was never truer than when out in the open, especially at night.

Kirk knew just how to approach them, how to handle the situation. He leaned forward, over the saddle horn. He drew one of two Colt pistols and held it in his left hand, obscured from view by the gang, who were gathered on his right as he approached. Kirk lay forward, right hand empty and motionless.

He had his eyes closed, focused on the sounds around him—boot heels against the dirt as they pushed themselves up, metal against leather and then against metal as they drew and cocked their pistols.

The stallion walked Kirk slowly up the slope to the gang’s fire, and they didn’t shoot, just as Kirk expected.

“Whaddaya make o’ this, Greedy?”

That told Kirk he’d found the right party. But that was hardly the resolution of the conflict. In some ways, it was only the beginning of the evening’s bloody festivities.

“Dead, I reckon,” Greedy said. “Gut shot, maybe.”

“Let’s pull ’im down,” the third man said, a voice different than the other two. “Bet he’s got a few dollars at least, probably guns, ammo.”

“The horse is worth more’n ’em things,” Greedy said. “All right, ditch the body.” 

Kirk’s ears twitched at the sounds of the pistol hammers uncocking and sliding back into the leather holsters. Giving them three seconds to raise their hands away from them far enough, he made his move.

Kirk bolted upright, turning the Colt in his left hand on the three men standing on his right. He fanned the hammer back with his right hand and held the trigger of the pistol down with his left. Doing this allowed a flurry of shots to come spraying out of the gun at an almost impossible speed.


The men crumpled in front of him, their nearby horses huffing as the men screamed and cried out. Kirk had shot them all in the legs, below the waist, deliberately keeping them alive. He climbed down from his stallion and walked over to the men, all writhing on the ground. One drew a pistol, but Kirk kicked it out of his hand. 

“Which one of you is George McCreedy?”

“He’s McCreedy,” one said, pointing at the man in the middle, smaller than the other two.

“That’s right,” the other said through his voice-clenching pain. “It ain’t us you want, mister.”

“They’s lyin’,” the one in the middle said.

Kirk walked around and took the men’s guns. One of them grabbed a hold of his leg, and Kirk gave him a swift kick in the head. Putting the pistols into a saddlebag on his stallion’s flanks, Kirk said, “Thing is, only McCreedy is wanted alive. Seems he ran afoul of a man near Amarillo. The other two, well, price is the same one way or another.”

“I’m McCreedy,” the one on the side said. “I hired these two back in Lubbock!”

“He’s a liar,” the other man said, the man in the middle saying nothing. Those three lies told Kirk everything he needed to know about who the real George Greedy McCreedy was.

Kirk looked squarely at the man in the middle. “You’re George McCreedy.”

The man winced in pain. “Who sent you? Was it… Cannery? Albert Cannery?”

“I wouldn’t know.”

“What’s the bounty? I’ll pay you double! And you can have these two, for whatever they’re worth.”

One of the other men said, “McCreedy, you sidewinder!”

“You can’t bribe me,” Kirk said, pulling a long coil of rope from the side of the horse. “All you can do, really, is not to give me a hard time about this.”

“You ain’t hog-tyin’ me,” Greedy said. “Touch me an’ I’ll kill ya!”

“Now, now,” Kirk said, “s’that any way to talk to a man who’s trying to save your life?”

“So Albert Cannery can torture me!”

“I’m bringing you in to the sheriff,” Kirk said. “Whatever happens after that, I can’t say. But I won’t let you bleed out before we get there.”

“And they call me Greedy,” he said.

One of the others said, “What about us?”

“You’re all comin’ in,” Kirk said, pulling one man’s arms behind his back. He struggled, reaching out to swat Kirk away. “Have it your way,” he said before pulling his Colt out and striking the man on the back of the head with the butt of the pistol. He went limp and Kirk looked at the other two men. “I’d be still, unless you’re wantin’ some of the same.”

Greedy McCreedy and his other man shared a glance, both also wincing in pain from their wounds. But it was clear neither wanted to be knocked unconscious, so they lay back and remained quiet.

“I’ll bandage you all up tonight,” Kirk said, “let you rest. We’ll head back tomorrow.”

“If you’re still alive tomorrow,” Greedy said.

“Well, if I’m not,” Kirk answered, “you won’t be, either.” 


Chapter Two

Harmony always enjoyed her trips from the Circle M Ranch and into Amarillo. Being the only daughter of the area’s wealthiest cattle rancher meant she could afford to shop for certain things other young women could not—combs, fans, bonnets. 

The sand’s unique yellow color vanished among the rows of wooden buildings and elevated sidewalks as civilization seemed to rise up from the desert. Though Harmony valued the natural beauty of the ranch, of the entire panhandle, she had a growing appreciation for the town, which was growing even faster. Since Texas had officially gone from being a territory to an independent Republic and then a verified member of the United States of America, the state and its towns had been expanding, spreading. People of different backgrounds came in from various corners of the continent and beyond.

Mexicans and even some Wichita came and went among the overwhelming majority of whites, whose manifest destiny it seemed was to overtake the entire nation at the expense of the others. The spirit of the Alamo was still fresh in the air, in the blood of the men and women of Texas. The names loomed large in their memories, reflected in the names of the streets and counties: Austin, Crockett, Bowie.

But that gruesome battle, and others, had brought a new civility to the desert. Glass storefronts were etched in acid. Whale oil lamps were fixed on fine strong poles placed along the streets. And the streets themselves were alive with activity, carts and horsemen and pedestrians pushing along in both directions.

There was a lot of ugliness in Amarillo, however, as Harmony assumed there would be in any town and especially in the big cities. Ugliness seemed a part of the human condition, just as beauty was. 

She walked down the elevated wooden sidewalk to stay out of the traffic, Terrance Tempe walking alongside her. His considerable height and broad statue made him easy to spot and even easier to run away from. He’d been her faithful and capable chaperone since her father had hired him onto the ranch, and Harmony had little concern for her own safety in her big friend’s company.

He was always respectful, always dutiful, always loyal. He’d punished men for coarse language in her presence, for a lewd stare, for daring to raise a foul word against her father, Stanley Mayhew. Both she and her father were grateful for his years of service. Looking around at the streets of Amarillo, it was easy to see how necessary those services were.

Men of all sorts populated the burgeoning town. Many already seemed drunk, though the sun was hardly at the center point of the sky. Others looked at her, her face and her height and as much of her build as they could discern through the tiered flounces of her skirt. Muggers and thieves would appear from out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly, with a purse or a billfold for their trouble.

She was glad to have Terrance around.

She noticed another man on the street, tall and handsome, with long blond hair and blue eyes, tall in the saddle of a speckled stallion. He led a train of three horses, each with a man in the saddle. Harmony noticed that the three men’s arms were held behind their backs, and their legs were severely bandaged and heavily blooded. Two were slumped, just one man erect with an agonized expression.

The man leading them rode calmly onward. He took notice of Harmony, tipping his hat to her as his speckled stallion carried him and the other three onward. He wasn’t wearing a badge.

“Bounty hunter, must be,” she muttered.

Terrance nodded. “I wouldn’t pay too much mind to men of that sort, Miss Mayhew.”

“No, of course not, but… three men. Impressive.”

“What’s impressive is that he brought ’em in alive,” Terrance said, his voice low and gravelly, as he led Harmony further in the other direction. 

That did strike Harmony as impressive, but not quite as much as the man’s face, his bearing. He had made an instant impression on her. Considering the man’s occupation, it was notable to Harmony as she imagined it might be for Terrance.

“Did you want to visit the dress shop, Miss Mayhew?”

“Um, yes, I…” But Harmony only then realized how much the man had impressed her. Clearing her throat to remove any further trace, she said, “Yes, I should think so, Terrance. Thank you.”

She let the big man lead her on, but Harmony’s attention was still fixed on the man now behind her. Three men, she thought, and alive! How brave!

As much as the town was growing, there seemed few enough eligible men, eligible at least as far as her father was concerned. A widower and a busy businessman, the great Stanley Mayhew was ever-mindful of handing his daughter over to a man worthy of her and worthy of his family fortune, as the man would eventually inherit it. None of the few who had caught Harmony’s fancy were deemed good enough. The others Harmony already knew wouldn’t be good enough without seeking her father’s approval.

Much as Harmony often felt hemmed in and looked after, she knew she needed that in a place like Amarillo, in any place in the great new nation of the United States. But she also wanted love, needed it, and she was beginning to wonder if she wouldn’t grow old on that ranch, a wealthy dowager, a lonely spinster.

There was little reason to think that the blond stranger would take any place in Harmony’s life. But he was a reminder of what a fine specimen of a man could look like, how impressive and intimidating such a figure could be. She was enticed. It was easy to recollect the dreams of her youth: dreams of a family of her own, dreams of being truly happy in a way that no amount of money or any heights of success could possibly provide.

Those things seemed to make the prospect of real happiness all the more difficult for Harmony to believe or even imagine. Her father wasn’t likely to find any man acceptable, and time would soon rob her of her good looks. Her black hair would gray, her blue eyes would fade, her proud bosom would succumb to age and gravity. Her virtue and her father’s fortune would be safe until both were rendered absolutely worthless, both of their lives wasted.

Harmony tried not to think about it. Life was often long and filled with great mysteries. She reminded herself to be mindful of those turns life could bring, not to let herself miss them or miss out on them. But she was growing impatient for such a turn, knowing that without it, her life was likely to go nowhere at all and become even lessnothing worth remembering, a life that was not even worth living, leading to a pointless death that would hardly be worth dying.

There was still room for hope, still time to be optimistic. But that time was fast running out and would never, never be replenished.

“Honor-Bound by the Badge” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

In the Texas Panhandle’s rough terrain, Kirk Willis, a hardened bounty hunter, is at a turning point. Accustomed to chasing the most dangerous outlaws, he secretly craves a life of stability and love. His attention is captured by Harmony Mayhew of Circle-M Ranch, offering both affection and a potential inheritance. However, his dreams are jeopardized when Harmony’s father disappears, plunging Kirk into a maelstrom of danger and uncertainty…

Will the shadows of the Wild West swallow his dreams whole?

Harmony Mayhew’s life of luxury is shattered by her father’s disappearance. As the daughter of the most successful rancher in the area, her existence has suddenly turned treacherous. The only one who can help her in these trying times is Kirk, a newcomer with a lethal charm. Harmony stands at a pivotal moment, torn between distrust and the blossoming feelings she harbors for Kirk.

Is she merely a pawn in a grander scheme?

As Kirk and Harmony navigate a path fraught with danger and deceit, one question lingers: In a land where trust is scarce and love is a gamble, can they survive the trials that fate has thrown their way?

“Honor-Bound by the Badge” is a historical adventure novel of approximately 60,000 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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