Justice at Sundown (Preview)


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Amelia Dawson stepped down from the porch onto the wet ground, unintentionally landing in a small puddle, which splashed up to cover the toe of her boot. She scowled, looking down at it. Lifting her foot, she shook it in frustration as she continued to the buggy. There were only two more bags to get out. Thomas, her guardian, would have done it for her but he had already done so much, and she knew he was busy with his own things at that moment.

Thomas Grant wasn’t just her guardian. He was her mentor, her best friend, and the man who had taught her the fine skill of martial arts. He had his own style, a calm and unique way of fighting that reminded Amelia of a feline.

Amelia was sold to a slave trade company when she was seven and Thomas had bought her from them. Unbeknownst to the traders, Thomas had had no intention of keeping Amelia as a slave. He immediately began to treat her as the daughter he’d never had, due to never getting married. Amelia had never understood why no woman had married Thomas. He liked to say he preferred to be on his own, but she didn’t believe that. She thought she knew what the problem was.

He’d been in love with her mother.

At twenty-four, Amelia knew what had happened to her parents, but Thomas hadn’t told her the truth until she was old enough to understand, which he’d deemed to be fourteen. Mature for her age, she had handled the news of the murder of her parents as well as any adult and much better than a typical teenager.

Thomas was her father’s best friend when they were young. They’d both met and fallen in love with her mother, Miriam, at the same time. Thomas, seeing how much his best friend Andrew truly cared for Miriam, had never revealed his true feelings for her. He’d let Andrew court and marry the woman he loved because he was just that kind of man.

The slave traders had murdered Amelia’s parents for no reason that she knew of. Thomas had never answered her question directly. He’d always replied with “because that’s what wicked people do,” but she had her doubts they’d done it just for the thrill of it.

With much cajoling, she’d been able to get some of the story out of Thomas. Once he’d found the traders and bought her from them after two years of captivity, he’d begun training her in martial arts. Someday, he’d told her when he’d revealed the reason behind his actions, they would fight the traders together and kill the people who had killed Andrew and Miriam.

For the last fifteen years, Amelia had been training to fight in a stealthy and logical way. She was taught to stay calm in every situation, to think strategically, to act with quickness, lightness of feet, and without sound. She was particularly good at sneak attacks.

But for now, Amelia would be teaching at the schoolhouse in Prairie Dog Heights, Nevada, where the town of around four hundred and twenty citizens had just experienced a traumatic event. The previous schoolteacher had been shot dead with an arrow. Right through the window of the schoolhouse on the second floor, where she was residing.

Amelia wouldn’t have to stay there, and she was glad. She was of the mind there would still be a bloodstain, a stench, and a feeling of overwhelming unsettledness in the room. She was sensitive to those things and didn’t want to live in a room where a death had occurred.

She and Thomas had rented a house—that is to say, Thomas had rented a house and they would be staying there together. She’d lived with the man as his ward for so long, they never thought about the perception they might give off if someone didn’t know their circumstances.

It wasn’t really something Amelia cared about anyway. She was there to perform a job. She was undercover as they had gotten close to the man behind the string of slave trading in Nevada. Thomas would do all the research. He knew several men in this town. It was small, but it was a central point in Nevada that made it convenient for both criminals and lawmen to meet.

Thomas would tell her who to target, where to look for evidence, and where to go to rescue anyone who had been taken from their homes, their relatives and loved ones killed if they tried to stop it from happening.

Amelia didn’t remember her parents, despite having been seven when they died. She had a vague image of them in her head and believed she could feel them in her heart. She harbored no resentment for them and had never blamed them for “leaving” her life when she’d been so young. She couldn’t picture them clearly in her mind and had no photographs of them to remind her of what they looked like.

Strangely enough, neither did Thomas. When he’d explained who he was and how he knew her and her parents, he’d produced a letter as proof. Amelia had never questioned his motives because he’d never treated her unkindly. He’d been like a father to her, and she was eternally grateful to him for finding and rescuing her from the traders.

Back in her room, she sat on the edge of the bed, the last two bags at her feet. She’d struggled to get them in, but they were there now and she was ready to unpack. Amelia’s bright green eyes studied the room around her, forming ideas in her mind on how to decorate it to make it her own.

She would make it home—for now.

Chapter One

Amelia hadn’t woken up in the best of moods, but it was her first day of school and she wanted to be excited. She’d been undercover as a schoolmarm before but not in this town. Her first impression of the place was that it seemed dry and distant from everything else. Central point or not, the town looked desolate and a bit dustier than the other places she’d been in Nevada.

Amelia dressed quickly and grabbed her canteen and bag with some cheese, ham, and bread slices for her lunch, along with an apple. She didn’t eat a lot, but this would have to sustain her until the day was done. It wasn’t that they didn’t have much money, she just didn’t want to overindulge when she could be asked to fight at literally any moment. Being drowsy as a result of chicken or turkey wouldn’t be beneficial.

The sky was a tepid sort of blue, making her feel tense. She frowned and forced herself to relax, running one hand over the long auburn braid she kept around front, draped over her right breast. It naturally hung that way, so she’d gotten used to braiding it and keeping it that way. She even tucked it into her shirt when she was fighting or training with Thomas.

“Oh no,” she murmured, noticing moments after entering the stable that her horse, Nicodemus, was favoring his back left leg.

She stopped trying to take him from the stall, leading him just two more steps forward so he’d be in the sunlight. She didn’t have time for this. She’d already prepared him for the ride and didn’t have a good feeling about horses with hurt limbs. She’d had Nicodemus for three years and didn’t want to give him up yet. She’d fallen in love with the animal.

“Let’s see what this is all about…”

She bent down and lifted his leg to see the bottom of his foot. The shoe was loose. Amelia frowned, trying to recall when they’d last gone over terrain rough enough to cause that.

She couldn’t think of anything happening recently.

“Well, let me fix this for you real quick, Nic,” she said in a soothing voice. “I’m sorry this happened. You’ve been suffering and I didn’t notice. Shame on me.”

Amelia disregarded the fact that she was going to be late on her first day. She’d planned to do several things before the children arrived, but now she would be rushing around the schoolhouse trying to get everything ready, avoiding the urge to go upstairs and see where the last schoolteacher died.

The circumstances around her death were suspicious. Thomas had mentioned that the fact that they’d left out how the last schoolteacher was “dismissed” in their advertisement only pointed more to the underground corruption existing in Prairie Dog Heights.

Once she had reshoed Nicodemus, she got up in the saddle and headed off for her destination. The schoolhouse was ten minutes from their rented home. She was confronted almost immediately once she crossed into town. There were cowboys standing on the sides of the street with women who gave her disdainful looks she didn’t understand. They were well-dressed, so maybe they looked down on the schoolteacher because her position held no grand status.

They wouldn’t have killed the last schoolteacher for that reason, would they?

Surely not.

Amelia felt the slightest chill in her chest. Before they’d arrived in Prairie Dog Heights, she’d had a long talk with Thomas about how she would be perceived. He’d told her most of the town was on the wrong side of the law, hence why the traders felt so comfortable there.

She didn’t like being heckled as she passed those cowboys and their ladies. They called out a morning greeting, which would have been nice, but it was followed up with questions about why she was so late, if she liked being a prude, if she was dressed appropriately for the spinster she would become.

It was all a bit childish but definitely not a motive for murder.

The building was still locked up tight when she got there. If the doors weren’t locked overnight, vandals would come in and destroy the place or use it for their benefit. Anything of value inside would be looted. They were lucky the children had never been disturbed during the day.

There was one thing Amelia believed about most criminals, at least the ones she’d come across in her time with Thomas. They either neglected completely or were completely obsessed with protecting their children.

It was apparent in Prairie Dog Heights, the parents were keen on protecting their children. The underlying respect was the only reason the town still existed.

Still, that peace existed on fragile ground that could crack at any moment and give way.

Then the town would dissolve into utter chaos, and Amelia didn’t want to be there when that happened. She wanted to find her parents’ killers and have her revenge.

Only then would she be able to live the rest of her life in peace.

The building was cold when she unlocked the door and went in. Amelia moved straight to the fireplace and threw on a couple small logs and some light brush, to which she set a match.

She had to blow on it a few times, but it finally flared up and she was grateful for the heat on her face, combatting the chilliness in the air. Backing away when her body felt warmed, she set about preparing the classroom for the children. They would arrive soon.

Amelia swept the floor and went out on the porch to sweep there in anticipation. Her heart thumped hard in her chest when she saw the first buggy pull up, followed by a stream of children who had walked to school. She would have twenty-nine children in her class, which seemed like a lot.

There was noticeable tension between some of the parents who’d come to drop off their children, and Amelia focused on the parents who split off into their cliques, talking about the others behind their hands. It was mostly women but there were a few fathers in the mix, looking stern whenever they spoke amongst the women.

The children were a delight. She was sure she wouldn’t have any trouble with them.

At the end of the day, she was surprised to see many more faces there to pick up their children. Word had gotten out that the new schoolteacher had arrived. There was probably a description of her auburn-haired, green-eyed features out there, making some of the women jealous. Amelia had experienced her fair share of husbands and fathers leering at her.

She took it all in stride, though, and hoped she would be able to form some bonds with the people in Prairie Dog Heights. Not for investigative purposes alone, but because she wanted some friends. Even for a short time.

Without losing sight of her mission, of course.

Chapter Two

After a long day of teaching the children, who’d been unruly from the moment they entered the building till they left, Amelia was looking forward to having dinner with Thomas. They hadn’t had time to really sit down and talk lately.

It had been a week. Friday had come faster than she’d expected, like the week had just flown by.

Thomas flapped the newspaper, holding it at an angle so he wouldn’t have it blocking himself from Amelia. They were at the New Day Restaurant on the corner of the main road and Huckleberry Lane.

“What are you going to get, Tom?” she asked him, curiously.

“Beef and veggie stew,” he responded without looking at her. “And you?”

“The same, I suppose.” She was putting a pouty tone in her voice, but she couldn’t help it. She didn’t like it when he read the newspaper at the dinner table and here he had brought the thing into the restaurant with him. It made her feel like her company wasn’t enough.

He must have heard how she said it because he gave her a long look, folded the newspaper, and tucked it under the table on his lap.

“Something on your mind?”

She shook her head. He always questioned her so kindly. Even if she had a complaint, she didn’t want to tell him. She was afraid it would hurt his feelings, and she didn’t want to do that.

“No, Tom. Not really.”

“Well…” He was about to speak when he cut himself off, staring at her. She blinked, recognizing the look on his face. He was listening.

She focused on the conversations around them. There was only one she could hear: the couple sitting at the table behind her. Thomas lifted his eyes and looked over her shoulder, indicating that was the conversation he was listening to.

“He’s been showing up lately. Showing off. Gonna round up a bunch of cattle that don’t belong to him and sell ‘em off.”

“Ain’t cattle he’s sellin’,” the opposite voice responded, “and you know it.”

“’Course I know it,” the first voice said back tersely. “You ain’t gotta go around talkin’ loud about it.”

“He don’t care. If there’s one man who don’t care how he’s hurtin’ other people, it’s Hawk Harrington.”

The first man let out an exasperated breath. “You just can’t keep that mouth shut, can ya?”

The second voice laughed. “What are you talkin’ about? He don’t care! Ain’t nobody gonna go up against him. He’s got the market cornered and they ain’t gonna do nothin’ to dethrone him.”

“Somebody gotta stop him. He’s been doin’ that for over twenty years. Too long for somebody to be gettin’ away with breakin’ the law. I heard tell he was gettin’ paranoid. Losin’ his mind more often than usual. You hear about that? He’s actin’ strange?”

“Nah. Don’t believe it. He ain’t scared. I reckon he knew he wasn’t gonna get caught if he came here to Prairie Dog. Ain’t nobody gonna bother him. Nobody gonna stop him. He’s only been here, what, six months now? He ain’t goin’ nowhere for a while.”

“I think you’re right about that,” the first man said, “but I’m gonna watch him next time he comes to town. I’ll just bet you he’s losin’ his mind. I’ll bet you.”

“I don’t know about that, Frank…”

Chair legs scraped the floor. Thomas flipped his eyes up from his cup of coffee, watching the men leave without turning his head. When he met Amelia’s gaze, his eyebrows shot up.

“You know who Hawk Harrington is?” she asked quietly.

He nodded. “Sure do. He’s one of the men at the top of this scheme. One of the men we came here to look at.”

Amelia felt a tingle of intrigue slide down her spine. “Is that so? I take it he’s a vicious man. Those people didn’t sound like they were his friends.”

“He’s not a good guy,” Thomas confirmed.

“You think he’s really losing his mind? If he’s responsible for the death of my parents, won’t that make him easier to catch and kill or take to the jailhouse?”

Thomas raised his eyebrows. “You gonna let him go to the jailhouse?”

“It’s not up to me,” Amelia replied, confused.

“It might be.” He gave her a serious look to match his tone. “Have you thought about what you’ll do if you discover this man is the one who killed them?”

Amelia’s chest tightened. “Is he the one?”

“He might be,” was the reply she got.

“I reckon I’ll figure out what needs to be done when the time comes.”

Thomas looked like he didn’t approve, his salt-and-pepper mustache twitching just slightly. He didn’t take his gray-blue eyes from her face.

Over the last fifteen years, she’d watched him turn from a youthful man to a man whose age showed on his face, thanks to the rough years he’d spent traveling around Europe and Asia. The sun had done a number on his skin. It wasn’t full of wrinkles, but those he did have were deep and obvious.

Amelia didn’t care. He was an extremely handsome man. She would never understand how he’d been able to resist all the women that had come after him… all the women she’d watched him reject.

He wasn’t interested in his own gender either. He appeared to be in love with life, and with his “daughter” there with him, he claimed to lack nothing he wanted. Even their years of travel had never dampened his spirits. He was serious most of the time, but she saw the sparkle of youth in his eyes and heard the happiness in his voice when they were having casual conversations.

Sometimes she wondered what he would do without her there with him.

“Don’t you forget what we’re here to do,” Thomas said, his voice turning more serious than ever. She gazed at him, paying attention to every word. “You may be immediately suspicious of this man because of his past and the fact that he is currently being scrutinized by the people of Prairie Dog. But there are others to look at, too. Don’t focus on just one man so soon.”

Amelia noticed with amusement how Thomas dropped the Heights from the name. He’d been in town one week and was already picking things up from the locals.

“I won’t,” she said. “I promise.”

Chapter Three

Another week passed, and Amelia started to make friends. One particular person in town had caught her eye, but she wasn’t sure how to feel about it.

She and Thomas were there to carry out a mission of revenge. It was for the good of others, but still, murder was a possibility. It wouldn’t be cold-blooded. There would be reason for any bloodshed that came about because of her and Thomas. The two wouldn’t be the first, the last, or the only murderers in the town of Prairie Dog Heights.

So her growing fascination with Sheriff William Thompson, whom everyone in town referred to as Sheriff Will, seemed off a little. He was tall, handsome, charismatic, and everything she was looking for in a man. He was taken with her, too, she thought, but she was too afraid to say anything. It was too soon. Surely it was.

He’d been coming to get his daughter, Megan, from school every day. He wasn’t there when she came in the morning but was there in the afternoon. She had come to find out his shift was in the morning and his assistant sheriff, Deputy Alex Brown, took over in the afternoon. He was a proactive sheriff, so he came whenever he was needed, even if he was off-duty.

They’d spent the afternoons talking on several occasions, so that Megan was left to play out front of the schoolhouse while Amelia and her father stood on the porch, talking and laughing as they got to know each other.

Now, when Amelia thought about him, her heart fluttered in her chest.

“Be careful,” Thomas had warned her before she’d left for the schoolhouse that morning. She’d brought it up to him at breakfast, seeking his advice. “You need to stay focused on why we’re here. I’ll see what I can do about getting the law on our side. We’re working as bounty hunters, you see. That’s the story we’re giving out. You know that.”

Amelia nodded. They’d discussed exactly what story they would tell if they ended up killing someone.

Thomas had killed men before. He didn’t talk about it, and Amelia didn’t ask. But any man who’d gone to war and fought for his country was bound to kill a man or two. Thomas had fought in wars that weren’t his own to fight, as he’d traveled in Europe. His time of peace, he said, came afterward, when he visited Asia. The people there had been the kindest he’d met in all his journeys, he’d told her. He’d felt more peace there than anywhere else in the world.

Amelia waited outside the schoolhouse for the parents to bring their children. She smiled when she saw Beatrice, Laura, and Denise walking side by side, the three of them escorting their children to school even though they didn’t need to. They were coming to talk to Amelia.

She found herself feeling torn now that she was getting to know the people in Prairie Dog Heights. It was hard to believe these women could be married to criminals, maybe even murderers. And they brought their children to school every day as if nothing was amiss.

Amelia had taken to following Silas “Hawk” Harrington whenever she saw him in town. She didn’t focus all her concentration on him, but he did seem the most likely one to be abducting children and women and selling them off as slaves. The color of their skin didn’t matter. The only thing that mattered was whether they could work.

While she had yet to see him doing anything shady, he wasn’t a very nice man, according to Sheriff Will.

“Good morning, ladies!” she said in a happy tone, always ready to start the day off right for her new friends.

“Amelia!” They all said her name in unison, looked at each other with wide eyes, and laughed heartily. Amelia joined them, moving past the children as they darted by, resting her hand on little Bobby’s head as he smiled up at her.

“Good morning, Bobby,” she said kindly to the ten-year-old.

“Mornin’, Miss Dawson,” he replied before scooting off with his friends.

“It looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day,” Denise said, her eyes flipping up to look at the bright blue sky. “I think it’s going to start getting cold early this year. What do you think, Bea?”

Beatrice grinned. “I think Max had better bring in the crops before we get a cold snap. We don’t want to lose an entire field because of an early chill.”

“That’s a very good point, Bea,” Laura said, turning her eyes to Amelia. “You don’t know a thing about farms and such, do you, Amelia? You’re all books and smarts, aren’t you?”

Amelia laughed with the others. “I have to admit I know very little about growing crops or raising cattle. I know about kids, though. I like to shape their minds and watch them grow. When a child gets the concept of something you’re trying to teach them, it’s a beautiful sight.”

“That’s a lovely way to think about it,” Beatrice said with a sigh. There was a hint of sadness in her tone that matched the look in her eyes. “I wonder if Catherine felt that way about teaching.”

Laura rolled her eyes, looking at Amelia. “She’s talking about the schoolteacher who was here before you, Amelia. She died here and Bea always gets so dramatic about it. I don’t know why you would. She was a terrible woman.”

Amelia hadn’t expected her friend to say anything like that. “What do you mean? How was she a horrible woman? That’s not something I’d heard before.”

Bea gave Laura a narrow look. “You wouldn’t.” She seemed to be directing her words to Amelia, though she was still frowning at Laura. “No one knew her as well as I did. She wasn’t a nice woman. She treated the children with kindness and caring because she was rooting them out to steal the children away and sell them off to the highest bidder.”

Amelia felt completely lost at this point. She hadn’t been told the last teacher was part of the slave trade. If Thomas knew, he hadn’t told her. And he would have told her.

But the more she thought about it, the more sense it made for her to be posing as a schoolteacher, after all. Would she be approached by the same people the last teacher had been working with? Would they want her to keep tabs on the children and their parents? Would they ask her to kidnap children for them? Or threaten her if she didn’t?

Amelia’s nervousness was short-lived. She would stop this madness and take out the men who were trading kidnapped children as slaves if it was the last thing she did.

“Justice at Sundown” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

On the brink of uncovering a dark secret, Amelia Dawson, an unconventional school teacher with auburn hair as wild as her spirit, steps foot into Prairie Dog Heights, Nevada. This is not just any town, though. This place harbors the heartless killer who took her parents’ life seventeen years ago. Raised under the watchful eye of her guardian, Amelia has blossomed into a stealthy avenger, capable of hiding her true feelings even in the face of grave danger.

Can she bring justice or will she be blinded by the sting of vengeance?

Known for his prowess in martial arts, Thomas Grant has solely one goal: to help Amelia avenge her parents. His life is intricately woven with Amelia’s and their common quest for justice strengthens their bond. However, as Amelia begins to grow fond of the town and its people, Thomas questions his initial conviction…

Can he guide Amelia down the path of retribution without losing himself?

Amelia’s quest for vengeance puts her at a crossroads. Will she choose to show mercy to those she suspects? Or will she let her thirst for revenge take precedence, to make sure her parents’ murderer pays? As Amelia grapples with these questions, only time will reveal the true path she chooses…

“Justice at Sundown” is a historical adventure novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cliffhangers, only pure unadulterated action.

Get your copy from Amazon!


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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